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Ordeal By Ice - Ships of the Antarctic by Rorke Bryan

26th March 2012
Ordeal By Ice - Ships of the Antarctic by Rorke Bryan

It is hard to believe that for almost three centuries, explorers have been captivated by Antarctica, bewitched by her unbelievably tranquil yet savage cold. Can you imagine trying to survive in -83 °C & 250 km winds? Imagine a wind so cold it can freeze exposed skin instantly? Or having to face the gruelling voyage through the Southern Ocean broaching in 98-ft waves with frozen decks, insufficient wet wool clothing, horrible food, being guided by the stars through rocks, reefs, icebergs? Strangely, few ships were lost in these poorly charted waters. But many men starved en route or were lost in blizzards & never heard of again. Twenty-two of Shackleton's crew lived for five months under their upturned ship on Elephant Island. Yet Shackleton's famous recruiting poster 'return uncertain' attracted 100s of volunteers! These were brave men.

This extraordinary and lavishly-illustrated book is the first to explore all expeditions to the Antarctic & lead us on remarkable voyages of discovery. Ordeal By Ice is published to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Scott and Amundsen's journeys to the South Pole in November 1911.

Cook's voyage in 1771 from Plymouth on Adventure completed the first West-East circumnavigation. However, ten crew were eaten by cannibals at Queen Charlotte Sound. Corkman Edward Bransfield sighted Antartica in 1820. But it was Scott's voyage with Discovery 1901-1904 that raised public awareness of the Blue Continent. In 1907-09 Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition nearly reached the South Pole 3 years before Amundsen. Scott's Discovery was the first ship built for Antarctic exploration, however it leaked & rolled badly & was poorly insulated. Had Charles Bonner not accidentally fallen to his death from the mast of Discovery waving goodbye to New Zealand, Tom Crean might never have joined Shackleton. He noted Shackleton's mood improved with the temperature of his cabin!


Charles Larsen's ship Antarctic got caught in ice & her crew were marooned on an ice floe. On his expedition to Antarctica, Douglas Mawson brought a Vimy Vickers monoplane with an air-tractor sledge. Wilhelm Filchner was forbidden by the Kaiser to go to the South Pole. There was mutiny when his ship became trapped in ice for the winter. Bellingshausen sighted the Antarctic in 1820, three days before Edward Bransfield but his voyage was not translated into English until 1945.

Rorke Bryan has been fascinated by the Antarctic since he was 8 years old & saw Scott of the Antarctic in The Metropole Cinema in Dublin. The son of a merchant mariner, he studied Natural Sciences in Trinity College Dublin and then he joined the British Antarctic Survey in the Falklands and spent three years at Base T on Adelaide Island. His work has brought him all over the world. He loves polar & maritime expeditions as well as sailing in the Baltic, climbing & cross-country ski-ing. He is married with a son and daughter who are following in their father's footsteps. Rorke divides his time between Canada & Galway & Sweden.

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