As 1909 dawned, the greatest jewels of exploration—set at the world’s frozen extremes—lay unclaimed: the North and South Poles and the so-called “Third Pole,” the pole of altitude, located in unexplored heights of the Himalaya. Before the calendar turned, three expeditions had faced death, mutiny, and the harshest conditions on the planet to plant flags at the furthest edges of the Earth.
In the course of one extraordinary year, Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson were hailed worldwide as the discoverers of the North Pole; Britain’s Ernest Shackleton had set a new geographic “Furthest South” record, while his expedition mate, Australian Douglas Mawson, had reached the Magnetic South Pole; and at the roof of the world, Italy’s Duke of the Abruzzi had attained an altitude record that would stand for a generation, the result of the first major mountaineering expedition to the Himalaya's eastern Karakoram, where the daring aristocrat attempted K2 and established the standard route up the most notorious mountain on the planet.
Based on extensive archival and on-the-ground research, Edward J. Larson weaves these narratives into one thrilling adventure story. Larson, author of the acclaimed polar history Empire of Ice, draws on his own voyages to the Himalaya, the arctic, and the ice sheets of the Antarctic, where he himself reached the South Pole and lived in Shackleton’s Cape Royds hut as a fellow in the National Science Foundations’ Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.
Edward J. Larson is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He received the Pulitzer Prize in History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. His other books include A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign. From 2013 to 2014, Larson was an inaugural Library Fellow at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington located on the grounds of Mount Vernon. He lives in Georgia and California.
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