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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Polar Opposites

Shackleton, Stefansson and the End of the Heroic Age

by (author) John Geiger

HarperCollins Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Post-Confederation (1867-), Polar Regions, Expeditions & Discoveries
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
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    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
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Polar Opposites is the extraordinary story about the fierce competition between two of the world’s most famous explorers – Sir Ernest Shackleton and Vilhjalmur Stefansson – at the very end of the Heroic Age of polar exploration.

In 1921, the two explorers competed for Canadian government support to mount an Arctic expedition with the goal of discovering an isolated island continent, an “arctic Atlantis,” believed to exist in the Beaufort Sea, and to reach the North Pole of Inaccessibility.

There is a remarkable symmetry between the two men, but also striking differences. Both lost their ships to the polar ice: but Shackleton was able to save all of his men after Endurance was crushed in the Weddell Sea, and his escape from Antarctica is widely considered one of the great chapters in polar exploration. Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic Expedition, on the other hand, lost 11 men on Karluk, and six others later – more than any expedition since Sir John Franklin’s.

The two explorers met in London in 1913 and became “great friends”. But soon, a vicious tug of war commenced to see who would win government backing, with Stefansson alleging his friend had double-crossed him. What followed were the final expeditions of Shackleton and Stefansson, each marred by tragedy.

Part exploration history, part adventure, and part black comedy, Polar Opposites is a lively account of the bitter rivalry of two of the 20th century’s foremost polar explorers, as well as the breathtaking machinations of the Canadian government, marking the end of an era.

About the author

JOHN GEIGER is a co-author of the international bestseller Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition and the author of five other works of non-fiction, including The Angel Effect and The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. Geiger is chief executive officer of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a fellow of The Royal Geographical Society. He is also a senior fellow at Massey College in the University of Toronto.

ALANNA MITCHELL is an internationally award-winning science journalist and author whose latest bestseller is Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis. She has recently transformed the book into a one-woman play and is performing it across Canada. In 2014, the play was nominated for a Dora Award. She is a contributor to CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks and freelances for Canadian Geographic magazine and The New York Times. She has travelled to each continent and most parts of the ocean doing research and giving talks on marine science.

CANADIAN GEOGRAPHIC magazine is a publication of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which is one of the largest non-profit educational organizations in Canada, with more than 150,000 subscribers and a network of more than 13,500 educators. The RCGS was a partner in the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition.

THE HONORABLE LEONA AGLUKKAQ is the member of Parliament for Nunavut. Following an extensive career in government, she became the first Inuk to be sworn into the Federal Cabinet in 2008, as the Minister of Health. She now serves as Minister of the Environment and is also the Minister of the Arctic Council for Canada. Ms. Aglukkaq was raised in Thom Bay, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven.

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