‘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.

As for the RSGS itself, some of the biggest names in exploration loom large in its history.  One of the Society’s co-founders was Agnes Livingstone Bruce, the daughter of David Livingstone;  Sir Ernest Shackleton was appointed Secretary in 1904, and remained on the Council for several years thereafter.  Two of Africa’s greatest explorers, Henry Morton Stanley and Joseph Thomson, exchanged polite insults at the Society’s inaugural banquet in 1884.   Fridtjof Nansen shared his experiences from the first crossing of Greenland in 1889;   and in 1890, Isabella Bird became the first woman Fellow of the Society.  She would go on to have adventures all over the world, in particular the Far East.  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