Into the White Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       June 10, 2017


Author  Joanna Grochowicz

Distributor:      Allen and Unwin
ISBN:                 9781760293659
Publisher:         Allen and Unwin
Release Date:   May 2017  


 If you know nothing about Scott and his Antarctic trials, and even if you do, this wonderfully enthralling story based on Robert Falcon Scott’s diaries will hold you captive as the men, their dogs and shaggy ponies, battle it out against some of the worst conditions the Southern Ocean and Antarctic weather can create.

Known colloquially as the Terra Nova Expedition(between 1910-1913) but officially as the British Antarctic Expedition, this expedition  was Scott’s second journey into the Antarctic in an attempt to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole and also to complete scientific experiments commenced in a previous expedition held between 1901- 1904.

This ill-fated expedition backed by public funding and augmented by a government grant, set sail on the good ship Terra Nova, crewed by 65 men, some of whom were veterans of previous expeditions to the Antarctic, many who had specific skills and trades, such as Herbert Ponting signing on for his first expedition who was a skilled photographer, Clissold the cook who could claim years of sea time and Titus Oates in charge of the ponies and dogs required for the overland trek.

But on this day 10 December 1910 the seas of the Southern Pacific Ocean were heavy and sullen, the Terra Nova was not handling the conditions well and her hull had sprung a leak. The ponies were troublesome, their legs swollen from long days standing in their pens, the dogs howling and restless on their chains. When a storm hits with a fury many of the men begin to wonder if they have chosen wisely, and this was just the beginning.

One thing the storm does is build team spirit, something that as things turned out was eventually required in the days, weeks and months to come.

As the expedition draws closer to the main goal, even more things begin to go horribly wrong, placing not just the men but the dogs and ponies in grave peril. Reaching the geographic South Pole, on 17 January 1912, Scott and his team of three men discovered the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 34 days. As it is recorded, Amundsen’s team took a slightly different route, and did not encounter any of the severe weather recorded by Scott and his team.

By the final page each of the men are very real; we can feel their fear, their sorrow and their acceptance as each one of them faces incredible odds. 

For many years after this death, Scott was lauded as a hero but as time goes on and further detail is discovered many questions are being asked as to the plausibility of the expedition which claimed so many lives

Grochowicz, based on diaries and letters left to be found, stories recorded from the few who returned and the known facts surrounding the expedition, breathes fresh life into the men who accompanied Scott, to present to a new audience of whom, like so many before them, find the wide open white spaces of the Antarctic fascinatingly irresistible.