AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Many East Coasters woke up this morning to a blanket of snow. And if you're among those digging out, keep in mind that it could be worse. You could be onboard the Akademik Shokalski. That's the research ship that's been ice bound in the Antarctic since Christmas Eve and it could get worse than that.
In light of all the ice and snow in the news, we bring you this week's must read. It comes at the recommendation of poet Jynne Dilling Martin. She recently served as a writer-in-residence in Antarctica.
JYNNE DILLING MARTIN, BYLINE: Picture this. You're a mild-mannered British chap. You're dressed in reindeer skins that are frozen solid. You're 10,000 miles from home, trying to reach the South Pole before anyone else does and your food is mostly stale biscuits. Actually, there's no way you can imagine how miserable this really was until you've read "The Worst Journey in the World" by Apsley Cherry-Garrard's.
"Cherry" was part of an expedition that left England in 1910 and was one of the lucky few who survived. With every page, you think their situation can't possibly get any worse and then it does. The sudden cold you feel on your face, hundred mile per hour winds just carried off your only tent. Blinded by the endless blizzards? Right, compasses don't work this close to the magnetic pole; good luck finding your way.
After months of this, the British team arrives only to find that the Norwegians beat them by a handful of weeks. The book is riveting, even if you already know from history that the primary team will die of cold and starvation on their way home. Cherry had been forced to turn back early, partly because his glasses were always fogging up. At base camp, he waits and waits for his friends to return.
What makes Cherry's story much more endearing than the typical adventure narrative is that instead of bravado, we get understated British humor. Early on he tells us, "The minus thirties and forties are not very cold, as we were to understand cold afterwards, but quite cold enough to start with." And even after the death of his closest friends, he says, "There is many a worse and more elaborate life."
CORNISH: The book is "The Worst Journey in the World." It was recommended by Jynne Dilling Martin.