Drawing of a sledging party by E. A. Wilson.

The Coldest March

by Susan Solomon

Yale University Press August 2001

"Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale." -R. Scott, written after traveling for weeks of daily temperatures below -35ºF.

This riveting book tells the tragic story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his British team who in November 1911 began a trek across the snows of Antarctica, striving to be the first to reach the South Pole. After marching and skiing more than nine hundred miles, the men reached the Pole in January 1912, only to suffer the terrible realization that a group of five Norwegians had been there almost a month earlier. On their return journey, Scott and his four companions perished, and their legacies -- as courageous heroes or tragic incompetents -- have been debated ever since.


The Discovery hut.

Susan Solomon brings a scientific perspective to understanding the men of the expedition, their staggering struggle, and the reasons for their deaths. Drawing on extensive meteorological data and on her own personal knowledge of the Antarctic, she depicts in detail the sights, sounds, legends, and ferocious weather of this singular place. And she reaches the startling conclusion that Scott's polar party was struck down by exceptionally frigid weather - a rare misfortune that thwarted the men's meticulous predictions of what to expect. Solomon describes the many adventures and challenges faced by Scott and his men on their journey, and she also discusses each one's life, contributions, and death. Her poignant and beautifully written book restores them to the place of honor they deserve.

An automated weather station.

"An absorbing, fascinating read -- a book that will appeal to the explorer in everyone." -Sally Ride

"This is a very well balanced and meticulously researched book. It shows beyond doubt how false and shallow have been the many malicious and blinkered books and films in their bland condemnation of Captain Scott as a bumbler and inept leader. Quite the opposite was actually true, and The Coldest March goes a long way to putting polar history right and thereby to killing off the vicious myth about one of Britain's great explorers." -Sir Ranulph Fiennes, polar explorer and expedition leader

"A great adventure story, made even more compelling by a modern scientific detective." -Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior

"A fresh and captivating look at one of the most tragic sagas in the annals of exploration. Solomon takes the reader on a breathtaking ride through Antarctica's beauty, history, and uniquely forbidding weather, weaving stunning scientific insights into the story of the lives and deaths of the men of Scott's last expedition in a forensic tour de force. Carefully researched, innovative, and elegantly written, The Coldest March will fascinate and inform anyone intrigued by polar adventure or the interplay of science and society." -Paul Ehrlich, author of Human Natures and Wild Solutions

"An inspiring chronicle of Antarctic scientific exploration at its most heroic. From the vantage point of history and her personal experience in Antarctica and with all the human and scientific insights of the outstanding scientist that she is, Susan Solomon has written a masterpiece. It is a tale of vision, courage, endurance, patriotism, loyalty, and all the strengths and frailties of the human spirit. Above all, it is good science, good history, and gripping reading." -J.W. Zillman, president of the World Meteorological Organization


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