Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Greatest Adventures of All Time, edited by Sullivan & Andreas

Robert Sullivan and Robert Andreas present a showcase of The Greatest Adventures of All Time, and by that they mean the greatest adventures of the Twentieth Century. This volume was put out by Time LIFE books at the end of the century, I believe to highlight our fascination with adventure over the past 100 years. Sullivan, in the introduction, seeks to separate adventure from exploration using the concept of George Mallory's quote "because it is there." Adventure has no purpose beyond glory or excitement and is committed to regardless of financial gain, as in Ernest Shackleton's apocryphal newspaper advertisement: "Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." The book contains expeditions based around water, land, ice, air, and space, and it sticks to the most famous explorers, including Shackleton, Heyerdahl, Peary, Armstrong, and Amundsen, with a couple surprises such as Matthew Henson, possibly the first man to stand on the North Pole. Each of the topics contains short histories of the expedition goals in addition to the adventurer profiles. Also, Will Steger is highlighted as a modern adventurer.

Regarding Everest, the authors include profiles of two climbers, Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner, in addition to a short history of climbing the mountain. The climbing history focuses on Mallory and Irvine, with an optimistic view of their climb. When the history makes its way to 1953, the section transitions into an extended interview with Hillary, "the World's Greatest Living Adventurer." The questions are meant for a general audience, and lead Hillary through his life and adventuring career roughly chronologically. The interviewer also asks Hillary about the recent commercialization of Everest, about Rob Hall (also a New Zealander), and the 1996 Everest mess. Messner gets a quick profile that talks a little bit about his career and highlights his 1980 solo climb of Mount Everest. The information presented is reliable, though general. Throughout the book, there are copious color photographic illustrations, including a suave current photo of Hillary and and a telephoto of Messner as a tiny dot ascending the North Col.

No comments:

Post a Comment