‘The Great Horizon – 50 Tales of Exploration’

“On Christmas Day… Mr Shackleton unexpectedly produced a plum pudding about the size of a cricket ball. ‘It was,’ said Captain Scott, ‘a day to remember all your life.’”

The Great Horizon‘ is a celebration of the lives of 50 explorers who have made a unique contribution to our understanding of the Earth.   Their stories are vivid and exciting, inspiring and moving, often born of dreams that sounded impossible except to the person who dreamed them.  All, in some way, have a connection to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society over its long and illustrious history.

Many of the contemporary explorers – extraordinary people like Sir David Hempleman Adams, Karen Darke, Craig Mathieson and Børge Ousland – I’ve been lucky enough to interview in person.   They generously shared their background and ambitions, their experiences and their hopes for the future.   For my research into historical figures, including some astonishing but little-known women explorers, I’ve gone digging around in the RSGS archives, and this has been a huge pleasure in itself.  From academic papers and newspaper cuttings, lecture notes, biographies, photographs and journals, stories leapt out of the page, demanding to be told.  This book allows me to share them with you.

And as for the RSGS, you might already know that one of its co-founders was the daughter of David Livingstone, and that Sir Ernest Shackleton became its Secretary in 1904.  But did you know, for instance, that Mary Kingsley’s first ever public lecture was to the RSGS, and that, having boldly forged a path through the African jungle, she insisted on having her paper read for her out of female modesty?   That H M Stanley and Joseph Thomson exchanged barbed compliments at the Society’s lavish inaugural banquet, or that George Mallory came to Scotland in 1922, showing the first photographs of Everest that many people had ever seen?   These stories are vibrantly alive, and deserve to be appreciated by every new generation.

“Surely, of all the wonders of the world, the horizon is the greatest.”

– Freya Stark

‘The Great Horizon’ has a Foreword by Professor Iain Stewart, President of RSGS, and an Afterword by Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of RSGS.

How to get a copy…

‘The Great Horizon’ is published by Sandstone Press.   The RRP is £24.99, and it is available in all good bookstores and online.  You can also call into the RSGS Visitor Centre in Perth during opening hours (check before visiting).  If you do, you’ll also be able to look around their ongoing exhibitions and browse the fabulous collection of books, records and artefacts in the Explorers’ Room.

For a signed or personalised copy, you’re welcome to contact me direct on jo(at)thehazeltree.co.uk

“On Christmas Day…” is a quote by Robert Falcon Scott in ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper, from the report of a lecture to RSGS, 11th November 1904