Non-fiction: Douglas Mawson: the Home of the Blizzard (the 1930 abridged edition)
Douglas Mawson is the least known of the larger-than-life era of Antarctic exploration. A contemporary of Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton, he’s the scientists’ explorer. While Shackleton was the great leader, Amundsen the great sportsman, and Scott the great bungler, Mawson was the great scientist. He was not trying to get to the pole, but instead conducted a two-year research program on a previously unknown stretch of the Antarctic coast.
The book he wrote about it is very good, among the best Antarctic books I’ve read, right up there with Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s the Worst Journey in the World, Stephen J.Pyne’s the Ice and Roland Huntford’s the Last Place on Earth. Mawson is very evocative, describing everyday details with great flair. He also has some of the best descriptions of scenery and the conditions the expeditions experienced anywhere in Antarctic literature.
You can tell all this right away from the great title his book has. You’ll note it doesn’t feature the words “Antarctica” or “the ice”.
As an added bonus, the edition I read (Birlinn limited, 2000) features an introduction by the great British masochist, Ranulph Fiennes, and a set of excellent photographs by Frank Hurley, more famous for his work on a Shackleton expedition.