Sunday, April 30, 2006

Say, do you have a ship and a dozen able men that maybe you could lend me?
- Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)
- the Weakerthans
Probably it's the weather today that made this book review really catch my eye (it's snowing on and off!), but I was mesmerized by a review in the newspaper of The Lost Men: the Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party by Kelly Tyler-Lewis.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, already heralded as a hero for his previous Antarctic expeditions,
planned to trek across the 2,400 kms across the continent in 1914. As he would not be able to take sufficient supplies with him for the entire expedition, he dispatched a ship to the Ross Sea on the opposite side of the continent. The men on the ship were to lay an 850 km chain of food and fuel caches that his team would access on the final quarter of the journey.
They made their base at Cape Evans on Ross Island in a vacant hut, used their moored ship as a floating warehouse, and began sledging out to lay the caches. In May of 1915, a blizzard blew the ship out to sea where it became stuck to an ice flow, dashing any hopes of retrieving it to Cape Evans.
With about half the sledging completed, the ten men, believing that the lives of their leader Shackleton and his expedition depended upon them, vowed to finish their task.
The thing is, Shackleton's ship had been crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea, and his expedition never started on their journey across the Antarctic. Of course the Ross Sea party were unaware of this. Suffering from snow blindness, scurvy, toe amputations, and having lost most of their 26 sled dogs, they calculated how to lay the rest of the caches within the allotted time. The quest took them two years, resulted in the deaths of three of the party, and covered 21,000 kms, but they accomplished it.
The survivors were eventually rescued by Shackleton himself, who had returned his original party to South America and then returned to save the rest.
I'm not usually drawn to historical tomes, but the story behind this one fascinates me. I think I'm going to have to read it.
****
What part of the Sunday paper do you read first?
The comics, right? Me too. In fact, there are 24 comics in the Sunday paper. I hate 10 of them, and I read them all every single week.
It used to be worse. They made some changes recently, but I used to hate 12 of them (half of the comics!) and still read every single one.
What a masochist.
Best comic in my newspaper = DILBERT!
Worst comic in my newspaper = toss-up between BC and The Family Circus

24 comments:

Barbara said...

The Gazette is testing new strips and asking people to leave their comments on the website. Very interactive. That is how a newspaper should be. Doonsbury is my least fav. I have no clue as to why that one lasted.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Were there any good new ones, Barbara W? The Herald did a similar poll when they made some switches.
Sometimes though it takes a while for a comic strip to grow on you.

Ruhee said...

TEN! Which ones do you hate? I am sure I will be heartbroken by some of the ones you name, but now I'm really curious.

Barbara said...

When you began this post with a request for sea-men I was wondering where this was going.
I never did like Get Fuzzy.
I think the one they are testing now is called F-Minus. It's not bad. It's like a mild Bizzaro.
My parents go through two newspapers a day then recyle 'em before I get round to reading them. I get my newspaper fix online.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Okay Ruhee, prepare for heartbreak. Working my way sequentially through the Sunday comics, the 10 strips I hate are:
Garfield, Blondie, Family Circus, Sally Forth, Archie, Marvin, Rex Morgan, Wizard of Id, Funky Winkerbean, and BC.
I hope this wasn't too hard on you.

Oh the title of the post is from a really great Weakerthans song, Barbara W, in which an confused retired explorer, who was on one of Shackleton's expeditions, has dinner with the philosopher Michel Foucault. It's awesome.
Your parents are sure fast recyclers.

kelly said...

i stopped reading the comics when calvin and hobbes ended....its wierd but i felt a sense of loss....i could understand him....sighhhhhhhh

Stephanie said...

man oh man do i love dilbert
i have a comic a day dilbert calender
tee hee
so much hilarity

Barbara said...

I love For Better Or For Worse.
I have never heard of Funky Winkerbean. And what you said about a song refering to retired explorers and philosophers is over my head. I am just a confused blogger.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Kelly, my kid has a bunch of Calvin and Hobbes books that I still read. It speaks to my inner pre-adolescent boy.

A comic a day Dilbert calendar would almost make it worthwhile getting up in the mornings, Stephanie. It's scary how much I identify with Wally.

Barbara, the thing I like most about For Better or Worse is that April is the same age as Eva. I like to compare their developments.

Will said...

Man ... what a story! Makes it pretty hard to complain about anything. I, too, am not usually drawn to historical stories. Maybe I can pass it along to my brother.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

There's always one historian in the family, isn't there, Will? Ours is Eva, but she's more into Russian history right now.
I'm not sure why I find the Ross Sea party story so fascinating, probably because I can't understand why anyone would go to the Antarctic in the first place.

phlegmfatale said...

wow, that may be a great read, but it sounds maddening. Let me know if it's worth picking up. Sounds like husband's kind of book, too.
I gave up reading the Sunday paper - rarely read a paper at all, these days. I buy a Sunday paper when I have a papier maiche project to do, and that's it.

Maureen said...

I miss the Far Side

Will said...

One historian I guess. Though my brother's really into music too. Hmmmmmm. Oh, and as far as comics go - I'm all about Boondocks.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Phlegmfatale, I'm starting to think just knowing the story is now good enough for me. If it's not a novel, I have a tough time staying focussed.

The Far Side! I sure miss that one too, Maureen. You can still get the desk calendars and my sister always tucks in a page from the Far Side calendar whenever she sends a card. It's a nice touch.

Funny thing, Will, our historian is more of a music freak than I am. I don't know where she stores all her information.
Boondocks is a great comic strip! It is totally sassy. Wish we got it in our paper.

John Mutford said...

For historical books in the same vein as the one you described, I'd suggest "The Arctic Grail" by Pierre Berton. It's hailed as one of his best. I can't go that far seeing as it's the only one I read (I have a sort of thing for the North), but it is a great read.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thanks for the recommendation, John. The north is fascinating to me as well (as is Labrador, actually - you've likely been there). I ashamed to say I've never read any Berton even though he is my friend's father-in-law. I'll have to fix that oversight.

John Mutford said...

Embarrassingly I've never been to Labrador. I know it's the bigger chunk of my province and all but oddly you never get to see home first. I did plan on getting there this summer but then taxes came and let's just say I can hardly afford driving to work anymore, let alone Labrador.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It is a sad truth that you never do see home first, John. I'm still kicking myself for not going on a Pellee Island winery tour while I lived in Ontario (heck I was only there 10 years).

Barbara said...

Do you get the comic strip in your paper called Zits? It has been all about blogging lately. My dad keeps saving me a copy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara,
I'm the author of The Lost Men, I read your post when I was on my book tour--glad to hear the feedback! If you want to read a bit more about it before you take the plunge at the bookstore, I have a website at www.thelostmen.com with more info. And I'll second John 's comment, Pierre Berton's "Arctic Grail" is fantastic. And re travelling to Antarctica...you might as well have done it! My last trip was in the Antarctic summer of 2002 and the usual temps were 5º to 25º F. (sorry I'm not metric-literate). I spent a week at altitude in -30 to -40º, which is tolerable with good clothing & no wind. But the Ross Sea party's ordeal--enduring the depths of winter wearing rags--is still unfathomable to me.
Cheers, Kelly Tyler-Lewis

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hello Kelly, and welcome!
I'm quite honoured that you would visit. Your book does sound fascinating and the reviews have been very positive. Thanks for the web address.
All the best.

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