A terrific story of human endurance. Admiral Richard Byrd is one of the great Polar explorers and is responsible for transforming Antarctic expeditions from the dangerous days of the heroic era to the comfort and safety available in modern Antarctic stations.
Byrd organised several American expeditions to Antarctica and built the research station Little America in the Bay of Whales next to the remains of Roald Amundsens base Framheim.
He did all this with little government support and paved the way for todays US Antarctic Program. In 1929 he became the first man to fly over the South Pole, and the first to see it since Scott left it in 1911.
In 1933, frustrated by the limited meteorological observations he could make at his coastal station he determined to establish a second base far inland. So was Advance Base born. Initially to be manned over winter by three men, time and material constraints resulted in a sole occupant over five months of winter: Admiral Byrd himself. In this book we see the hopeful but wary Byrd descend slowly into despair as unknown to him toxic carbon monoxide gas from his heater begins to slowly kill him. After recovering from a coma he realises his predicament and tries to nurse his broken, poisoned body back to health.
It is a harrowing tale as a bedridden and brain damaged Byrd tries to feed and water himself. He is forced to make the daily decision as to how long he can run his heater without further worsening his condition. Lying alone in the dark with only his thoughts for company he enters the darkest parts of the human psyche and somehow finds the strength to fight. All through this Byrd maintains his daily observations and his weekly radio contact with his colleagues at Little America. Tapping out morse code messages he hopes will disguise his desperate state and prevent a dangerous mid winter rescue.