The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf

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The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf

Category: History
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Judy Davies
Reviewed by Judy Davies
Summary: A lovely book, reminding us so clearly about the excitement and wonder of past and present world discoveries and feats of bravery. The Great Horizon really does give a glimpse of the challenges of exploration and the hardships suffered by the brave men and women involved. Maybe the tantalisingly short chapters could have given a little more detail, but nevertheless the flavour of adventure is there and Jo Woolf certainly makes this an interesting book to read.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2017
Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd
ISBN: 9781910985885

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Jo Woolf has compiled a brilliant set of fifty short insights into the lives and achievements of some amazingly brave people. Their fearless journeys have helped us unlock many of the mysteries of the wildest parts of our world, and also given us an understanding of what it is like to be faced with the most terrible conditions and still have the determination and grit to carry on. This book could be viewed as a taster which encourages us to seek out and read more about some of the most iconic explorers. Their stories are pretty incredible and Woolf does them justice.

Fifty potted histories is a lot to get through, but I quite liked the short chapters in The Great Horizon, giving just enough information to whet the appetite and keep on reading. It's a book that can be enjoyed in small chunks, as each chapter stands alone and no prior knowledge is required to understand the information given.

Jo Woolf has managed a nice balance between different types of exploration, and I particularly liked the section on polar exploration. I would have preferred a bit more about the actual voyage, the places visited and what they were like. Instead, Woolf spends a bit of each chapter setting the scene and talking about the explorer's family history.

Each chapter is linked, by the thread of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. This esteemed institution has played a central role in supporting exploration and in the systematic and scientific study of our planet. I think a bit more could have been said about how fantastic the RSGS has been in expanding our knowledge of the earth and its resources.

It is a book that makes you feel quite humble when you read about some of the great feats of endurance and courage. It is also sad in parts and uplifting in other ways, demonstrating that we are endlessly curious to understand our world. While in the 21st Century, we may have explored most of the surface of the earth, we have not stopped looking outwards into space and downwards to the depths of the seas. And, as Jo Woolf reminds us, the earth is constantly changing, and we are rediscovering and re-evaluating what we once felt to be true, through further exploration.

Also fascinating in The Great Horizon, was Woolf's insight into what motivated the explorers to undertake their journeys, and what kept them going when conditions became intolerable. Was it the challenge in itself, as much as the thirst for a new discovery? Was it the drive to bring about social change or education? Or was it for personal glory - to be the first ever to achieve a feat previously thought impossible?

Despite its length, this is an easy book to read and includes some original photos and extracts from the RSGS archives. I think maps would have helped the reader understand the journeys better, but overall, what a great way to be introduced to the people behind the names we were introduced to as children: Scott, Amundsen, Heyerdahl and so many more.

Recommended for fans of The Earth Book: A World of Exploration and Wonder by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook and non-fiction texts exploring the amazing world around.

Buy The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf at

Buy The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration by Jo Woolf at


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