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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-18
- Reviewer: Staff
As a teenager, Cox (Swimming to Antarctica) was enamored with Norwegian explorer Amundsen (1872–1928), the first to lay claim on the South Pole. Aside from chronicling Amundsen's frosty adventures, Cox details her efforts to swim in the waters off Antarctic and Greenland—in the very icy waters where Amundsen sailed. An ambitious mélange of biography, memoir, and journalism, Cox's work covers too wide a terrain, feeling choppy and abrupt, conditions not aided by her flavorless writing and poor organization. As a memoirist, Cox fails to establish a personal connection to her aquatic quest and doesn't define her historical inspiration. As a reporter, she seems more concerned with celebrating her friendships and networking abilities than in uncovering information, an annoying tactic that will leave readers wondering who the book is really about. Overlooked and underreported, Amundsen—he was also the first to sail through the Northwest Passage—is relegated to being the nebulous center in a book that is hopelessly adrift from the opening pages. 62 photos; 3 maps. (Sept.)
Risking the Northwest Passage
As a young man, Roald Amundsen set out with a friend on an Arctic training exercise, skiing west of Oslo to a mountain range with a plateau that extended to Bergen. While the two hoped to reach their goal in two days, a blizzard, combined with the pair’s lack of preparation for the trip, turned a training exercise into a misadventure that almost ended in tragedy. As a result of this event, Amundsen never again went unprepared into a polar environment.
In South With the Sun, her fast-paced and inspiring chronicle that is part biography and part memoir, Lynne Cox, a seasoned explorer herself who’s already shared her aquatic adventures in the breathtaking Swimming to Antarctica, feels compelled to follow Amundsen’s path. He becomes for her a waypoint along her life’s journey, providing hope, inspiration and guidance as she retraces his steps across the Northwest Passage. From her own adventures along the Amundsen trail, Cox learns that he succeeded where others had failed because he prepared extensively for his journeys and he took calculated risks. In preparation for his journey to Antarctica, for example, Amundsen learned how to sail and navigate and started to earn his skipper’s license. In addition, he learned to listen to the experts on the ship; unlike many of his fellow explorers, he avoided a devastating bout of scurvy during the Belgica expedition to Antarctica simply by following the suggestions of the ship’s physician to eat raw meat.
Cox weaves her own adventures into her narrative about Amundsen. She prepares methodically for her swims on the coast of Greenland, Baffin Island, King William Island and Cambridge Bay in water as cold as 28.8 degrees without a wet suit. As she swims the Chukchi Sea, north of the Arctic Circle, she survives her encounters with masses of jellyfish and feels elated that her swims have taken her into waters that few have ever entered—and that she has traveled through the same Arctic that Amundsen had, a place where one misstep could mean disaster.