Research Blog Antarctica #99: Discovery

Non-fiction: Richard E. Byrd: Discovery (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1935)

Discovery is Richard Byrd’s account of his second big Antarctic expedition. The difference between this and accounts of the expeditions of Scott and Amundsen is striking, even when the difference in time is not so long. Amundsen used dogs, Byrd uses tractors and flies around in an airplane.

Byrd has written two books about this expedition, this and one called Alone, already featured on this blog. Alone is a personal account of Byrd’s time alone at a remote base during the Antarctic winter, while this is a report of the whole expedition.

I’m sad to say that Discovery is quite a slog to read. It feels like the kind of a thing you write for your financiers, with little personal detail. The few times Byrd talks about questions of leadership or other such issues are among the best parts in the book.

Sometimes the way Byrd writes about Antarctica can be quite beautiful, but most of this book consists of dry details of various scientific programs and sledging expeditions.

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