Always keen to try something new! Our virtual pub meet last week had an interesting new flavour. Eleven club members joined our online Zoom meeting to hear about some recommended reading from Neil, Alan, Vivienne, Lewis and John – ‘anything about the outdoors or nature, mountains and skiing and adventure’. We had 5 very different books – it was a fascinating evening.
Neil started off with Robert MacFarlane’s latest book ‘Underland’. Neil has read all of MacFarlane’s books and is a real fan of his writing style. In his latest book Underland he has plenty of material, describing his own adventures in a cave in the Mendips and elsewhere, underground exploration around the globe, passages built beneath cities such as Paris, climbing into ice caves beneath glaciers and working in deep laboratories where scientists search for ‘dark matter’. There is an excellent Guardian book review here.
Alan talked about ‘We Die Alone’ by David Howarth, published in 1955. It is a story of survival by a Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud, the sole survivor out of a group of saboteurs landed on the coast of occupied arctic Norway in 1943. Helped by local people who risked their own lives in the presence of German patrols, he was left for days buried in a snow cave in the mountains in storm conditions and it took him 2 months to make it to the Swedish border. The route taken is still celebrated in July each year (it takes 8 days and is known as the Jan Baalsrud March). The author David Howarth was a junior officer who helped set up and run the wartime operation between Shetland and Norway known as ‘The Shetland Bus’ (the title of his earlier book published in 1951).
Vivienne introduced us to a novel by the Norwegian author Lars Mytting ‘Sixteen Trees of the Somme’. The young Edvard grows up on a mountain farmstead in Norway with little knowledge of his parents who died when he was 3 years old. The action takes place in Norway and the Shetlands and wartime France as he tries to unlock his family’s tragic story, a moving tale that spans an entire century.
Lewis was torn between 3 books all with an arctic theme. He eventually plumped for Roland Huntford’s biography of the great Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen was born in 1861 and developed a taste for arctic exploration soon after finishing his studies. His epic expedition across Greenland (with 2 Lapps and 3 fellow Norwegians) was in 1888. News of his success did not get back to Norway until Spring of the following year. His next polar journey was with the purpose-built ship Fram which left Norway in 1893 with the intention of reaching the North Pole (making use of polar drift). The Fram got to around 83 deg N and from there Nansen and one companion set off for the north pole with dog sleds and kayaks – they did not get to the pole but they broke the record for most northerly arctic exploration at more than 86 deg N.
John Dark’s chosen book was ‘Space below my Feet’ by Gwen Moffat (first published in 1961). Born in 1924, Moffat was introduced to climbing just after the second world war and took up something of a Bohemian lifestyle, climbing and odd-jobbing, before becoming a full-time climber and mountaineer and thereafter became Britain’s first female certified mountain guide. She has also had a distinguished writing career (both fiction and non-fiction) and has been featured in a number of documentaries including on BBC radio and Banff Mountain Film Festival and UK Climbing.