Book Reviews

Forgotten Footprints: Lost stories in the discovery of Antarctica by John Harrison

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List Price: £20.00


Hardcover: 200 Pages.

Published: 01 May 2012 by Parthian Books

ISBN: 1906998213

EAN: 9781906998219

Forgotten Footprints tells the story of the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands and the Weddell Sea: the most visited places in Antarctica. In 12 years John Harrison has visited the Antarctic over 40 times, where he works as a guide and lectures on adventure cruise ships. Here he offers a selection of highly readable anecdotal accounts of the merchantmen, navy men, sealers, whalers, and aviators who, along with scientists and adventurers, drew the first ghostly maps of the white continent.


3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Lacks coherence

The author tells the tale of the discovery of Antarctica by describing the people who found it and what they did there so that scientific and exploratory expeditions are included together with information about the whaling industry. The outline is roughly chronological but the switches from one type of visitor to another confused me and I found it difficult to get an overall picture of the history. It was confused further because the author is clear that he is only writing about visitors to coastal areas which are now visited by cruise ships and not about the whole continent. As I doubt that I shall be visiting this part of the world I would have preferred a more general history.

The anecdotes with which the author makes up this book are well told and interesting. They give an insight into the whaling industry and the exploitation of natural resources in the past few centuries. The book brings this up to date by describing the current political situation with regard to the continent. The book catches the imagination with its information about the people who made discoveries.

The author also introduces information about things he has seen when in Antarctica. I gathered from this that he knows the area well and has experience in living there and navigating it by small boat. At no time does he actually give the context of his knowledge of the area and he references his own experience only occasionally and seemingly randomly. It would have made more sense if he talked more fully about what he knows personally about the area or if, alternatively, he omitted his own experiences altogether.

This was a frustrating book as much of the detail was very interesting but it lacked a coherent framework or any consistency in how the story was told.

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