Race to the Pole - James Cracknell and Ben Fogle


Mark Haddon

"Adventure comes no more rugged than RACE TO THE POLE, where James Cracknell and Ben Fogle battle the elements to beat a tough Norwegian team and conquer Antarctica, almost a century after Amundsen and Scott"

The Times



A few months ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed 'The Crossing' about Ben and James' tale of rowing the Atlantic.  When I saw the BBC documentary about their most recent exploits - taking part in the first organised race totthe South Pole - I really had no option but to read the book as well! 

Whilst the book is a journal written from Ben and James' perspective, this time they were also joined by a third team member, Dr Ed Coates. One if the things I enjoyed most about this book was hearing what they thought they had learnt from their Atlantic crossing.  I don't mean this in a technical skills sense, rather the importance of planning early, taking sufficient supplies, realising an endurance race means you have to pln in a contingency for everything.  It was nice to see that in some areas they were finally getting it right; it was amusing that for others they thought they had but were actually making as big a mess as before.  The brilliant example is the snack bags. 

Whilst in Cape Town a few days prior to flying to Antarctica, they are preparing their snack bags to send off with their pulks (the big sleds that you always see explorers pulling!) which were leaving on a ship the following day.  One would think, given the importance of food that they would have prepared these already...but no!  Further, one of them suggested splitting sweet and savoury (I forget which) only to be told by the others it would take longer and they didn't have time.  Cue two weeks later when they are having to force-feed themselves the tasty combos of chocolate infused salami and cheese a la chocolate! Although, in taste terms they become grateful when they learn their 'arch eivals', the Norweigans, snack on reindeer fat - yummy!

That does bring to mind one major thing I liked about this tale - the comradery between the teams.  Yes they were competing, but in such a hostile environment relationships with the others seemed crucial.  It felt as though that fact came ad quite a surprise to some, but everyone was the better for it.

As with 'The Crossing', this book is worth time and attention. In fact, see if you can stop yourself from mutter at the book when reading about James in the crevass fields!




Reviewed on 19/08/2009 by Angela


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ISBN: 023073944X

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