The Explorer’s Eye: First-hand Accounts Of Adventure And Exploration edited by Fergus Fleming and Annabel Merullo

Having always wanted to conquer the North Pole but now finding himself, almost by default, in possession of the south, Amundsen was a trifle disappointed. He wrote, “I had better be honest and admit straight out that I have never known any man to be placed in such a diametrically opposed position to the goal of his desires than I was at that moment.”

This book was just the overview I was looking for on the history of modern exploration. Dozens of short pieces, each containing contextual commentary, images, and first-hand accounts by the profiled explorer, were a great format for me to learn just enough to be interested but not overwhelmed. Each piece took only a few minutes to read, perfect to pick up and put down repeatedly, making this a great bathroom book (TMI?).

 

Summary:

In the 18th century discovery entered a new dimension. Explorers were now motivated by scientific inquiry rather than greed. Their job was not only to open new lands but also to investigate the globe’s mysteries. To this end they were expected to make a full record of everything they encountered; and for the first time that record was to include pictures as well as words. It was the birth of exploration as we know it today.

Combining first-hand accounts with original images, this book gives an insight into who these men and women were, how they operated and, above all, what they saw. They were a mixed bunch – scientists, naval careerists, lone wanderers, sometimes plain adventurers – but whatever their training or background they provided a vivid portrait of the unknown. In the early days they drew their own pictures, later they came with qualified draughtsmen, later still they carried cameras, and ultimately they were accompanied by professional film crews. The power of their images is matched by that of their writing.

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