A Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2012
The untold story of the great polar explorer who conquered the world's last unknown places, before vanishing in a daring bid to rescue his nemesis.
In the early 1900s, many of the great geographical mysteries that had intrigued adventurers for centuries remained unsolved, leaving some large blank areas on the increasingly detailed maps of the world. The polar regions -- the Northwest Passage, the South Pole, the North Pole and the Northeast Passage -- despite having claimed countless lives, were still shrouded in mystery. One man would claim all these prizes within a span of 20 years.
Roald Amundsen was an adventurer and entertainer of the highest order. Larger than life, arrogant and competitive, he was also a meticulous organizer and planner, willing to learn from the mistakes of others, and humble enough to seek the advice of indigenous peoples skilled in arctic survival -- thus avoiding the early death that was so common among others who challenged the most desolate places on the planet.
But Amundsen's life was one of sharp contrasts: reviled by the British for defeating Robert Falcon Scott in a desperate race to the South Pole, he was loved by his men, hailed as a hero in his native Norway and idolized as a charming and eccentric celebrity in the United States. Drawing on hundreds of recently uncovered press clippings, The Last Viking goes beyond Amundsen's conflicted legacy, revealing a humorous, self-deprecating storyteller who had unusual opinions and dreams; a visionary and showman who won over both his sponsors and his audiences with the same verve that characterized his geographical conquests.