An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science (Hardcover)

Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science

By Edward J. Larson

Yale University Press, 9780300154085, 326pp.

Publication Date: May 31, 2011



Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, "An Empire of Ice" presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration. Retold with added information, it's the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, social, and geopolitical context.

Efficient, well prepared, and focused solely on the goal of getting to his destination and back, Amundsen has earned his place in history as the first to reach the South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, has been reduced in the public mind to a dashing incompetent who stands for little more than relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat. "An Empire of Ice" offers a new perspective on the Antarctic expeditions of the early twentieth century by looking at the British efforts for what they actually were: massive scientific enterprises in which reaching the South Pole was but a spectacular sideshow. By focusing on the larger purpose, Edward Larson deepens our appreciation of the explorers' achievements, shares little-known stories, and shows what the Heroic Age of Antarctic discovery was really about.

About the Author

Edward J. Larson is University Professor of History and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. His numerous books include "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion," for which he received a Pulitzer Prize in History. Larson splits his time betweenGeorgia and California."

Praise For An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science

"Empire of Ice is a new take on polar exploration of the early 20th century.  It puts expeditions by Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton et al. into a wider scientific, social and geopolitical context."—Travel Book Seller

“Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Larson sheds new light on the famous three-way race to the South Pole....A satisfying tale of adventure and exploration.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Larson succeeds in this approach to the popular subject of polar exploration by wrapping the science in plenty of dangerous drama to keep readers engaged."—Booklist

Larson “is a brilliant researcher.  An Empire of Ice reflects exhaustive digging and reaches well beyond the standard source materials. . . . Larson provides enough fresh perspective that even devotees of polar literature will learn things.”--Jennifer Kingson, New York Times Book Review
-Jennifer Kingson

“A far more interesting and richer account than we have had thus far. . . . Larson has written a fascinating book, one sure to force a rethinking of the Scott-Amundsen race as well as reconsiderations that will include science as a driving force in Antarctic and indeed polar exploration.” — Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, Science Magazine

“…… [An] enlightening and entertaining new book, An Empire of Ice, seeks to rescue the exploits of Edwardian derring-do from the condescension of posterity by showing us how much more there was to what his subtitle refers to as the heroic age of Antarctic science.”—Robert J.Mayhew, Times Higher Education
-Robert J. Mayhew

“In this fascinating book…..Larson’s intriguing accounts begin to reveal the bigger picture of early scientific research in Antarctica and its place in European geopolitics of the time.”—Michael Bravo, New Scientist
-Michael Bravo

“This is a great and needed book, highly worth reading whether your Antarctic focus is history or science.”—The Antarctican Society Newsletter

"Extremely well written and documented, An Empire of Ice is a gripping account that reads almost like a thriller."—J.D. Ives, Choice
-J.D. Ives