Friday, September 22, 2006

Svalbard in Text

Picture by Steve Johnston - many thanks !

In today's lesson, we looked at the way in which Svalbard has been portrayed in writings.
Early explorers in the 19th century were searching for a trade route to Asia and Western USA. They were also trying to reach one of the extremes of the world: the geographic North Pole.
We had extracts from the excellent "Barrow's Boys" by Fergus Fleming which looks at the journeys into the Arctic made following orders by John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty.

Here is a detail from the Amazon description of the book. Amazon sell this for £6.59 - visit the BOOKSTORE to buy a copy:

Barrow's Boys is a spellbinding account of perilous journeys to uncharted areas under the most challenging conditions. Re-creating the successes and harrowing failures of the original extreme adventurers, Fergus Fleming captures the incredibly brave, and often downright insane, passion for exploration that led a band of men into situations that would humble even the bravest adventurers today. These men served under John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty, who, after the Napoleonic wars, launched the most ambitious program of exploration the world has ever seen. For the next thirty years, his handpicked teams of elite naval officers scoured the globe on a mission to fill the blanks that littered the atlases of the day. From the first disastrous trip down the Congo, in search of the Niger River, Barrow maintained his resolve in the face of continuous catastrophes. His explorers often died of sickness or at the hands of unfriendly natives, and they struggled under minuscule budgets that forced them to resort to pulling enormous ships across floating ice fields; to eating mice, raw meat, or their own shoes; and even to horrifying acts of cannibalism.

We looked at the journeys of Edward Parry and David Buchan, both of which started from Spitzbergen.

Look at the image at the top of the page - how does that look to you ? Spectacular ?
What if you were aboard a ship heading for the ice which could well crush your ship ? What if no one knew where you were and there was no chance of rescue ? What if you might not see your family for 2 or 3 years ?

We compared the descriptions in the accounts from the 19th century with the language used in brochures and documents from this century...
Also some extracts from "Frost on my Moustache" by Tim Moore (looking forward to his new book about the people who have scored no points in the Eurovision Song Contest...)

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