As the heat of Summer slowly cools down to a simmer, those yearning for cooler climates might want to take a dip in one of the coolest sections of Central Library. Down in the History Department is where you will find the the very end of the Dewey Decimal range of call numbers. The 998s and 999s. A very appropriate home for the subject of polar regions and exploration.
Before space exploration was even remotely possible and deep sea exploration was still the stuff of Jules Verne novels, polar exploration was considered by many to be the final frontier of terra firma. For centuries, explorers, merchants and adventurers from all over the globe struggled, often fatally, to make their way to the poles.
Historically, Arctic exploration typically served the purpose of finding a more feasible route to Asia by way of Europe. On the other hand, or pole, exploration into the Antarctic and the South Pole wasn’t of major economic interest by many and was instead typically sought after by explorers and adventurers for the glory and honor of doing what nobody had ever done before. Some means of travel were ingenious. Others foolish. All of them brave. The stories of survival range from chilling, to downright cold hearted when tough decisions needed to be made.
For example, Fridtjof Nansen attempted to literally drift to the North Pole in an iron reinforced ship that he sailed as far north as possible before purposely letting the waters around him freeze and lock the ship into place while the shifting plates of crushing ice crept closer to his goal. Others, like S.A. Andrée attempted to summit the Earth in a hot air balloon. The remains of this craft were not found until 34 years later. The idea of flying a dirigible over the pole was actually quite sound, and it was successfully accomplished in 1926 by explorers flying within The Norge. And of course, there is Ada Blackjack. Blackjack was an Inuit woman who was recruited as a seamstress for an Arctic expedition. When the journey ended in ruin, Blackjack was left stranded alone on an island in Siberia for two years with her only companion being Vic, the expeditions cat. Both eventually were rescued to safety.
The following books are really just the tip of the iceberg of what Central Library has to offer on the harrowing topic of polar exploration.
The Ice Balloon: S.A. Andrée and the heroic age of arctic exploration
By Alec Wilkinson
South with the sun : Roald Amundsen, his polar explorations, and the quest for discovery
By Lynne Cox
Nansen: The explorer as hero
By Roland Huntford
Ada Blackjack: A true story of survival in the Arctic
By Jennifer Niven
The last Viking : the life of Roald Amundsen
By Stephen R. Brown
The lost men: The harrowing saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea expedition
By Kelly Tyler-Lewis