Roald Amundsen, “the last of the Vikings,” left his mark on the Heroic Era as one of the most successful polar explorers ever.
A powerfully built man more than six feet tall, Amundsen’s career of adventure began at the age of fifteen (he was born in Norway in 1872 to a family of merchant sea captains and rich ship owners); twenty-five years later he was the first man to reach both the North and South Poles.
Lynne Cox, adventurer and swimmer, author of Swimming to Antarctica (“gripping” —Sports Illustrated) and Grayson (“wondrous, and unforgettable” —Carl Hiaasen), gives us in South with the Sun a full-scale account of the explorer’s life and expeditions.
We see Amundsen, in 1903-06, the first to travel the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in his small ship Gjøa, a seventy-foot refitted former herring boat powered by sails and a thirteen-horsepower engine, making his way through the entire length of the treacherous ice bound route, between the northern Canadian mainland and Canada’s Arctic islands, from Greenland across Baffin Bay, between the Canadian islands, across the top of Alaska into the Bering Strait. The dangerous journey took three years to complete, as Amundsen, his crew, and six sled dogs waited while the frozen sea around them thawed sufficiently to allow for navigation.
We see him journey toward the North Pole in Fridtjof Nansen’s famous Fram, until word reached his expedition party of Robert Peary’s successful arrival at the North Pole. Amundsen then set out on a secret expedition to the Antarctic, and we follow him through his heroic capture of the South Pole.
Cox makes clear why Amundsen succeeded in his quests where other adventurer-explorers failed, and how his methodical preparation and willingness to take calculated risks revealed both the spirit of the man and the way to complete one triumphant journey after another.
Crucial to Amundsen’s success in reaching the South Pole was his use of carefully selected sled dogs. Amundsen’s canine crew members—he called them “our children”—had been superbly equipped by centuries of natural selection for survival in the Arctic. “The dogs,” he wrote, “are the most important thing for us. The whole outcome of the expedition depends on them.” On December 14, 1911, Roald Amundsen and four others, 102 days and more than 1,880 miles later, stood at the South Pole, a full month before Robert Scott.
Lynne Cox describes reading about Amundsen as a young girl and how because of his exploits was inspired to follow her dreams. We see how she unwittingly set out in Amundsen’s path, swimming in open waters off Antarctica, then Greenland (always without a wetsuit), first as a challenge to her own abilities and then later as a way to understand Amundsen’s life and the lessons learned from his vision, imagination, and daring.
South with the Sun—inspiring, wondrous, and true—is a bold adventure story of bold ambitious dreams.
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Knopf hardcover, 2011, Previous ISBN 978-0-307-59340-5From the Back Cover:
“This book is as autobiographical as it is biographical . . . a book that juxtaposes two adventurers, one with her own challenges still unfolding and the other with his position fixed in history . . . a book worthy of the centenary celebration of Amundsen’s trek to the South Pole.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Today the North and South Poles are home to research stations and film crews, but just a century ago they were forbidding lands seldom seen by human eyes. Those who journeyed there were the last true explorers, and one of the most successful ever was Roald Amundsen. Known as “the last of the Vikings,” the Norwegian-born Amundsen began his career of adventure at age fifteen and by forty had become the first man to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, and to reach both the North and South Poles.
As a girl, Lynne Cox read of Amundsen’s exploits, which inspired her to follow her own adventurous dreams of open-water swimming. Here, she gives an account of Amundsen’s life and expeditions while detailing her own experiences swimming (without a wetsuit) in the same polar regions he first explored. At once a biography, history, and memoir, South with the Sun holds something for any lover of adventure.
“Not to miss . . . It's fascinating to read about the Norwegian hardman through the eyes of Cox.”—Outside
[AU photo] LYNNE COX has set records all over the world for open-water swimming. She is the author of Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson and lives in Los Alamitos, California.
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