Seek the Frozen Lands: Irish Polar Explorers 1740-1922
by Frank Nugent
The Collins Press
ISBN: 1 903464 24 2
If asked to name Irish polar explorers, Shackleton and Crean would
immediately spring to my mind, then I'd have to think long and hard
and in my ignorance probably wouldn't come up with any more. Therefore
I was surprised to learn from Seek the Frozen Lands that placenames
familiar to me from Arctic and Antarctic maps, such as Crozier, Ross,
Beaufort and Bransfield, are named after Irish explorers. That they
were Irish is not surprising - a seafaring nation of spirited people
- that it is not generally known, even by Ireland's younger generation,
Frank Nugent seeks to re-establish this forgotten history by presenting
accounts of the Irishmen who made their mark in polar history, men who
undoubtedly deserve recognition for their endeavours regardless of their
outcome. Through meticulous research and personal interviews with the
descendants of some of these characters, Nugent has created a valuable
reference source that will be the pride of Ireland.
The first chapter opens with Arthur Dobbs, who initiated and supported
two expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage during the 1740s.
He was educated at Trinity College, which Nugent acknowledges as having
played a major role in the education of several of the men who went
on to explore the then unknown polar wildernesses. The book continues
in chronological order, ending with the exploits of Shackleton and Crean.
Insight is given to the men's lives before and after the expeditions:
Bransfield was probably press-ganged into service rather than volunteering;
unlucky in love, Crozier fell for Franklin's niece who unfortunately
preferred to flirt with Ross; Gore-Booth (who? - read the book and you'll
find out!) treated his tenants with generosity and respect as well as
funding his own expeditions.
This is another beauty of a book from The Collins Press, liberally
illustrated with maps, photographs and sketches and a page design that
invites you to delve in at any stage. Nugent's accessible writing style
ensures an entertaining as well as informative read. I hope that it
will achieve worldwide recognition of Irish contribution to polar exploration
- not least of all from the Irish themselves.
Reviewed by Solveig Gardner Servian