Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica

Holt. Jan. 2021. 272p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781250257802.
Gr 4-8–In 1911, teams led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and English naval officer Robert Falcon Scott raced one another to be first to the South Pole. More than a century later, American endurance athlete Colin O’Brady and another Englishman, army officer Louis Rudd, scrambled for the honor of finishing the first solo traverse of the Antarctic continent, unsupported and unassisted. In alternating chapters, engineer and STEM advocate Barone traces each of the campaigns, examining the personalities, training and preparation, often brutal challenges, and successes and failures of the men. Facing total whiteout conditions and temperatures sometimes exceeding -50 degrees Fahrenheit, all of the explorers confronted the limits of endurance, with Scott and two surviving colleagues ultimately succumbing to cold and starvation on the slog back from the pole, only 11 miles from a resupply depot. Blocks of text are unbroken except by embedded illustrations and the layout is plain, without any offsets or sidebar texts, making the book more appropriate for stronger readers. Plentiful photos vividly illustrate the striking polar desert terrain, as well as showcase the explorers and some of the gear required for enduring such an extreme climate. The volume concludes with a 10-page bibliography, including numerous books, articles, and websites, and more than 300 endnotes with source references.
VERDICT A compelling narrative focused on science and technology, embedded in a cluster of thrilling adventure stories, this will be an easy sell for middle schoolers and many older elementary students. Highly recommended.

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