Tales of Antarctic expeditions from the Heroic Age at the turn of the last century vie with one another in the depths of the misery they explore. The doomed wooden ships have names like Impetuous, Obstinate, Delirious. Accounts of their last moments are written on the backs of labels for Mrs. Potter’s Tinned Yorkshire Peas.
Back home—fingers missing, noses shortened—survivors trade stories for drink, fixing strangers with a remaining eye: It were the sled dogs saved us, I won’t lie to you. A fine stew they made. Apsley Cherry-Garrard described his expedition to retrieve an unhatched emperor-penguin egg as “the worst journey in the world”—the title of his classic account. The cold made his teeth chatter so violently that he broke them all.