Below the Convergence

Gurney, Alan
Year Published: 

"Long before Admiral Byrd's well-publicized expeditions and the race to the South Pole by Scott and Amundsen, other, now long-forgotten explorers, adventurers and ordinary seal hunters made or tried to make their way to Antarctica. Gurney, a Scots yacht designer and photographer, tells the story of some dozen of those men, beginning with the astronomer Halley (of comet fame) in 1699 and finishes with an 1839 whaling/sealing ship-the Eliza Scott-whose crew discovered boulders imbedded in Antarctic ice, a geological mystery that caught Darwin's interest. But to mention only the detailed accounts of these voyages-and they are very detailed-fails to give a sense of the treasure-trove quality of this unusual book. Along the way are interesting discussions of the history of astronomy, geography, navigation (especially the problems of working out correct longitude), cartography and ornithology (how the penguin got its name), diet (the problem of scurvy) and the economics of the whale-oil trade. And how many of us have seriously considered the question ""Is there indeed a 'Southern Ocean' below the Pacific?""? Gurney's somewhat dogged interest in describing exactly which routes various ships took to get from here to there is more than made up for by his curiosity about what they encountered along the way. This book, written for serious sailors, should entertain anyone curious about history's backwater."