Non-Fiction. In 1986, seven men, one woman, forty-nine sled dogs, and three tons of supplies set out for the North Pole. The goal of the Steger International Polar Expedition was to reach the Pole on dog sled without any resupply from the air. They made it to the Pole, though on route two members had to be airlifted out, as well as around twenty-one dogs and a number of supplies (to lighten the load)- some members of the expedition referred to this as a reverse resupply and questioned whether it invalidated their goal. They wanted to duplicate, as much as possible, Robert E. Pearys 1909 drive to the Pole, but Peary still had to get himself and his people back to land after the attempt, which Steger did not.
The entire expedition was airlifted out a day after they reached the Pole, so they werent carrying the supplies needed to sustain a trip home.The book is written in first person Will Steger and covers all the major points of interest in any polar narrative: Its cold, the dogs get into the food, someone falls in a lead, the gas stoves leak, how to poop when its -60F.
Its easy enough to read, though Steger doesnt have much charisma, and the way he writes his teammates doesnt make them any more interesting. I couldnt tell them apart, but he doesnt really ask you to, so it all works out.The majority of the book is just a polar narrative- Steger isnt that invested in the Peary question one way or another, but based on their mileage, he concludes its possible that Peary did make the time he claimed.
However, according to Wally Herbert in The Noose of Laurels, there are some discrepancies in the miles reported by the Steger Expedition: Their average mileage over their last five marches was not, as he states, thirty-four miles, but twenty-five statute miles, or 21.7 nautical miles. Steger is evidently referring to his route miles (the distance he actually travelled) and is giving that average in statute miles. The reason Sir Wallys getting so riled up about statute miles is that Peary (and pretty much everybody else) used nautical miles to measure distance on the ice.
Nautical miles are handy because a minute of latitude is almost exactly 60 nautical miles, making them just a bit longer than statute miles, which means you cant compare nautical miles and statute miles straight across, kids. You have to convert first, and it looks like Steger didnt do that. So what he thought was an average of thirty-four (statue) miles a day, was really closer to 18 nautical miles, and nowhere near Pearys reported best average of almost 31 nautical miles a day. Herbert finishes by saying, It is very clear from this that the performance of Stegers party, admirable though it was, can in no way be regarded as a vindication of Pearys claimed speeds or distances.
(262-3) Herbert also disagrees with Stegers claim that sastrugi are universally helpful for navigational purposes, but now Im just boring you.Three stars. Interesting, but not all that engaging. More a story about the trip than the people—or history—behind it, and so doesnt have much heart. Plenty of stuff about ice and cold, though. Has some animal harm.