Book Review – ‘Polar Mariner: Beyond the limits in Antarctica’ by Bill Jones

By Bill Jones, published December 2020


Captain Thomas Woodfield had a remarkable career at sea. After a year at the Warsash School of Navigation, then under the command of the redoubtable Captain Wakeford, he served an apprenticeship in merchant ships, until in the early 1950s he obtained a junior officer’s posting to an Antarctic research ship, the Royal Research Ship Shackleton. There followed over 20 years of continuous service aboard the various ships of the Antarctic Survey, before the author ‘swallowed the anchor’ and began a career as one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House. This book is an account of those two decades of navigating in the extreme southern latitudes.

Woodfield is a consummate mariner, and his book is a meticulous account of his career. He has quite properly relied on his personal logs as preparation for authorship, resulting in precise detail of each voyage. He is, however, no literary stylist. As a source for sound information on navigation in polar latitudes this book is valuable, as a story of a career in dangerous and extraordinary waters it is impressive, but as a lively read it is rather plodding …

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Filed under: Post WW2 | Twentieth Century | Antarctic
Subjects include: Biography | Science & Exploration | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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