The arctic is all the rage right now what with The Terror being out on tv and then there was that (bad) novel North Water a little while ago and people love writing about it.
The Antarctic doesn’t get the same love for a few reasons I can think of. One, there’s not express reason to go there except research and adventure. At least in the North, you can look for shipping routes and people live there and it’s connected to Canada.
Also, the Antarctic is one big shelf of land, so reaching the middle is interesting, but a matter of planning. And so when Rolf Amundsen made it, he did so through careful calculation and planning.
And that’s why this novel is a) not about Rolf Amundsen and b) not an adventure story.
Instead, this novel is about the Robert Falcon Scott voyage…underplanned, unsuccessful, and unfulfilling as a journey, but ripe for analysis for the kinds of empty and half-assed thinking and planning that went into it.
The Terror voyage is famous for taking two organs and like 3000 books and then not only not enough food, but a bunch of food that spoiled. This one took not only not enough food but the wrong kind of boat and the wrong kinds of animals and refused to carefully plan until they got here.
So the novel is five sections each narrated by a primary member of the crew as they mostly lay out the mindset that carries them on their journey. There’s little focus in the novel on plot and more so on character, and so the resulting 190 novel is lean but precise.