Monday, July 28, 2008

{Review} Moments of Terror: The Story of Antarctic Aviation by David Burke

For those with interests in aviation or exploration, this book is a real find. Many people are familiar with Admiral Byrd's exploration of the seventh continent including his flyover of the South Pole in his aircraft the Floyd Bennett. But few are aware that aviation in Antarctica has been present since some of the earliest expeditions. Small float planes provided the ability to scout for paths through the sea ice and reconnoiter potential overland trails for expeditions based on ships. Once land bases were established, aircraft often were the only means of communication and rescue.

Moments of Terror is also the story of the more colorful aviators of Terra Australis Incognita. Few people today have heard of Lincoln Ellsworth, but in the 1930s he was as well known as Charles Lindberg. A colorful character, who among his other quirks strongly admired Wyatt Earp (and flew with Earp's actual gun in his plane). The book related the tales of his famous Antarctic cross-continent flight and his other flights there which made him a household name.

More recent aviation activity is also covered in detail. The author relates the story of the C-130 Hercules and it's association with Antarctica, becoming the workhorse of the US Navy, delivering personnel and supplies all the way to the South Pole in flights that might seem routine but are often fraught with dangers and difficulties.

The book comes well illustrated with over 300 photos, maps and drawings. The writing combines some first person tales with the author's informal storytelling style. The book remains interesting throughout, from the stories of fragile biplanes perched precariously on the decks of tiny ships to tourist flights in jumbo jets.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

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