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Antarctic heroes

SPACE may be the final frontier, but for mankind, the depths of the ocean are the current frontiers. And before that? Well, there were the Americas to find, the Earth to circumnavigate and the heart of Africa to travel to. And though it is certain that the Columbuses, Magellans and Livingstones of the world have had a hard time, there is one destination that has demanded the utter maximum of human endurance: the quest for the Poles [no pun intended whatsoever].

The tales of the polar attempts are filled with tragic heroes. Three names shine out brightly in the story of Antarctic Exploration.

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen
Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer and he is the first person to travel to both the North and the South Pole. Born in 1872 in a family of ship owners and captains, Amundsen was initially set to be a doctor as per his mother's wishes. After she died, he abandoned the pursuit of a career in medicine and fell in love with the sea.

Amundsen is the first person to traverse the Northwest Passage, the treacherous sea route that links Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the top of the world. During the expedition, Amundsen and his crew were trapped for two winters near King William Island. It is there that Amundsen learned necessary arctic survival techniques from the local Inuit folk that would later come in useful, such as the use of sled dogs, animal skills for clothing instead of wool.

In 1910, Amundsen was making preparations to go to the North Pole. But others claimed it before him. On the other hand, Captain Scott [see below] was planning to take the South Pole. So Amundsen decided to mislead everyone into thinking that he was heading for the North Pole, while in fact, he planned to take the South Pole first. He notified his crew and sent a telegram to Captain Scott telling him of his ships destination after leaving Oslo port. This created the great Antarctic race. Amundsen won by 35 days. He is lauded for his excellent planning, organising and execution and also for his focus. He didn't do much in the way of surveying on his journey for the pole. He just went there. They left a small tent and a letter stating their accomplishment, just in case they didn't make it back. Amundsen and his men returned safely.

Amundsen disappeared on June 18th, 1928, while flying on a rescue mission launched to look for the crew of an airship that had crashed on its return from the North Pole. He is thought to have crashed into the foggy Barents Sea and died.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Probably one of the great iconic British heroes, Captain Scott was a British Naval officer who missed the first place to the South Pole by 35 days. On 17th January, 1912, Scott and four others of the Terra Nova expedition reached the South Pole only to find Amundsen's tent. Heartbroken and demoralised, the party turned back to the 1300km return journey. None of them survived. Their bodies were discovered nearly a year later, along with Scott's final letter and journals.

Scott's final letters and the tragic deaths of his companions and himself, fired up a fierce nationalistic pride in the British people. They became the ultimate heroes. But recently, modern researchers have criticised Scott's organisational skills and planning. His orders were all over the place, he was skeptical about the use of dogs and skis. This amateurism is what reasearchers think cost Scott and his men their lives.

Nonetheless, Scott remains one of the most famous heroes of the Antarctic exploration era.

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton
Once a subordinate of Captain Scott, Ernest Shackleton was sent back due to health issues from a previous expedition. To make up for his seemingly personal failure, he returned to set a record of the closest convergence on either Pole in exploration history up to that time. But he has achieved hero status for an entirely different expedition.

In 1914, Shackleton launched the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which was supposed to cross the Antarctica from sea to sea. Of course, disaster struck and Shackleton's ship, Endurance, was trapped and crushed by pack ice. The crew abandoned ship onto ice floes and hoped that they would eventually get to a safe landing. They abandoned ship on 24th February 1915 and finally made it to Elephant Island on 14th April 1916.

Elephant Island was inhospitable and there were no shipping routes nearby. So Shackleton decided to modify a lifeboat and make a journey to the South Georgia whaling stations. Six people got on the boat, rode the choppy waters, survived a hurricane that sank a 500 ton steamer and got to the southern shore of South Georgia. The stations were at the Northern shore. Shackleton decided that the lifeboat wouldn't be able to negotiate going around the coastline of South Georgia and decided to do a land crossing of the Island. Leaving three companions with the boat, Shackleton reached the port of Stromness in 36 hours, trekking through mountain ranges and glaciars. Duncan Carse, a British explorer who later attempted the same route as Shackleton wrote: "I do not know how they did it, except that they had tothree men of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration with 50 feet of rope between themand a carpenter's adze".

Shackleton sent back rescue teams. All of his crewmembers made it through alive.

Shackleton died from a heart attack in 1921, while his ship was moored in South Georgia and he was about to embark on another expedition. Death while chasing adventure seems to be a common trait in these men. Finally, a quote from Captain Scott's Message to the Public: “We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last”

By Kazim Ibn Sadique
Reference: wikipedia

Book review


YOU've got to hand it to the pirates of Nilkhet for keeping up with the trends. With all the glitzy bookstores around town busy shutting down, or relocating, or always in the process of re-stocking their supplies of the kind of pop fiction that no one really reads, it's the photocopiers down at Nilkhet, and the traffic signal vendors that keep their finger on the readers' pulses over here.

Which is why yours truly snapped right out of a doze when she stopped at an intersection and spotted a vendor waving a copy of Eclipse in her face. That's right, the saccharine-loaded, over-hyped, cheesy Twilight series is now officially available in paperback in Dhaka city.

Eclipse is the third book in the series, and picks up right where the last book left off. If you managed to resist the lure of Twilight and New Moon, here's a skinny for you: Twilight is about a girl called Bella Swan, who moves to Forks to live with her father Charlie, after her mother remarried. She enrols at high-school there, meets and falls in love with the mysterious Edward Cullen, who just so happens to be a vampire. After a lot of self-denial and high drama, which also includes the Cullens protecting Bella from another troupe of vampires, Bella and Edward give in to their feelings and become an item.

In New Moon, a close shave where Edward's brother Jasper nearly kills Bella, convinces Edward just how much danger she is in by being with him. The entire Cullen family packs up and leaves Forks. A heartbroken Bella tries to cope with the loss, and begins to seek thrills by engaging in dangerous behaviour. In the course of this, she becomes close to her childhood friend Jacob Black, who also has a secret to hide.

Towards the end, Bella attempts cliff diving, and this is noted by Edward's psychic sister Alice, who interprets it to mean that Bella is dead, and an anguished Edward flies to Italy to seek out the Venturi, the supreme authority, so to speak, of vampires, hoping to be killed. Bella must reach him before he has a chance to kill himself.

Eclipse starts off towards the end of Bella's high school years. Reunited with her lover, she is preparing for the prospect of leaving behind all that is familiar to join her beloved, for Edward has promised to marry her. If this isn't already a difficult decision to make, things are made more complicated when her best Jacob professes his love for her.

The love triangle becomes a little more bizarre when Jacob discovers he is a werewolf, the ancient enemy of the vampires. Some 600 plus pages of teen angst commence, peppered with a dose of suspense because a vengeful vampire has raised an army to kill Bella and punish the Cullens for helping her.

As with her previous books, Meyer does a sloppy job of characterization, taking them almost into a caricature level by overdoing certain qualities. She builds suspense, and then removes the reader from the scene of the action, perhaps in an attempt to keep it a PG 13 read.

Nevertheless, she must be lauded for knowing her target audience well, and she adds enough mush, angst, drama and glitter to keep teen fan girls around the world drooling over the story. For the rest of us, it's a book you have to read because you just want to pick it apart.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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