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'Conquest of the South Pole!' newspapers declared in March 1912: Amundsen had won the race. Yet, behind all the headlines, there was a much bigger story. Antarctica was awash with expeditions. In 1912, five separate teams representing the old and new world (Robert Falcon Scott for Britain, Roald Amundsen for Norway, Douglas Mawson for Australasia, Wilhelm Filchner for Germany and Nobu Shirase for Japan) were diligently embarking on scientific exploration beyond the edge of the known world. Their discoveries not only enthralled the world but changed our understanding of the planet forever.
During this incredible year at the height of the Heroic Age of Exploration, the limits of our planet were pushed all the way to the South Pole and the door to Antarctica flung wide open. A frozen continent shaped by climatic extremes and inhabited by wildlife and vegetation unknown to science was being uncovered. Tales of endurance, self-sacrifice and technological innovation during 1912 laid the foundations for modern scientific exploration and inspired future generations.
To celebrate the centenary of this groundbreaking work, 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica revisits the exploits of these different expeditions. Looking beyond the personalities and drawing on his own polar experience, I show how their discoveries marked the beginning of the end for traditional exploration. Making use of original and unpublished archival material and weaving in the latest scientific findings, I reveal why 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and show how we might reawaken the public's passion for discovery and exploration.
Many thanks to the Skelton family estate and the University of Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute, for granting permission to use additional material in 1912. Click here to download a list of resources.
'As well as casting the Scott-Amundsen rivalry in a completely new light, Turney also unearths documents that appear to show a cover-up in the way the demise of Scott's Polar party was reported...Whatever Turney goes on to achieve in his career as a scientist, it is perhaps for this single historical discovery that he will be best remembered.'
'A gripping account of the race to the South Pole, 1912 is a celebration of pioneering explorers and their awe-inspiring achievements. Turney brings the Antarctic adventure to life.'
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
'There are indeed lessons we can learn from Scott and Mawson. It is to Turney's great credit that he can so convincingly show their contemporary relevance, even as he recreates their long since surpassed scientific achievements.'
'Turney successfully conveys the heroism and flaws of the early explorers as they challenged the preternatural dangers of Antarctica.'
'Yes, it's got plenty of boy's own adventure, but what stands out is the fact 1912 is written by a scientist. Turney knows what the explorers were doing, their scientific passion and how they built their investigations into their adventures What an age. What a continent. What a good book.'
'While the sharks-and-Nazis approach of soundbite television requires heroes, drama and ripping yarns to secure the cash needed to launch expeditions, often it s the geographers, scientists and explorers who bring back the real treasure in the form of diligently recorded data. And then, every so often, comes someone able to meld the two. Someone able to excite and inform, to narrate and inspire...Turney's enthusiasm translates to the page and the book is very readable, but, like David Attenborough's BBC series or the Cousteau /National Geographic collaborations, the amalgamation of disciplines (entertainment, history, science and geography) is the real success.'
Sunday Star Times
'Did greed doom Captain Scott?' The Daily Mail
'Did Scott's own South Pole team seal his fate?' New Scientist
'Christchurch Writers Festival: Top Five Moments' stuff.co.nz
Science Weekly Podcast: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica The Guardian
Radio New Zealand with Chris Laidlaw
1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica
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