Exploring Polar Frontiers

A Historical Encyclopedia

by William James Mills


The next decade will see centennial celebrations marking the heroic age of the great polar explorers: Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Sir Ernest Shackleton. From Pytheas's voyage to the Arctic Circle in 325 B.C. to Børge Ousland's solo crossing of the Arctic Ocean in 2001, the history of our quest to conquer the poles is filled with tales of courage, inspiration, tragedy, and triumph.

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Cover image for Exploring Polar Frontiers

December 2003


Pages 797
Volumes 2
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics World History/Science and Technology
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Covers the entire history of Arctic and Antarctic exploration, from the voyage of Pytheas ca. 325 B.C. to the present, in one convenient, comprehensive reference resource.

Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia is the only reference work that provides a comprehensive history of polar exploration from the ancient period through the present day. The author is a noted polar scholar and offers dramatic accounts of all major explorers and their expeditions, together with separate exploration histories for specific islands, regions, and uncharted waters. He presents a wealth of fascinating information under a variety of subject entries including methods of transport, myths, achievements, and record-breaking activities.

By approaching polar exploration biographically, geographically, and topically, Mills reveals a number of intriguing connections between the various explorers, their patrons and times, and the process of discovery in all areas of the polar regions. Furthermore, he provides the reader with a clear understanding of the intellectual climate as well as the dominant social, economic, and political forces surrounding each expedition. Readers will learn why the journeys were undertaken, not just where, when, and how.


  • 511 A–Z biographical, geographical, and subject entries on polar exploration such as dogs, man-hauling, Elephant Island, South Georgia, and major explorers such as Sir John Franklin, Fridtjof Nansen, and Richard Byrd
  • Extensive collection of photographs, many taken by expedition participants
  • Vivid illustrations, including woodcuts and drawings
  • 20 maps detailing Arctic and Antarctic regions
  • Chronology of expeditions beginning with the voyage of Pytheas in 325 B.C. through the present


  • The only title to tell the stories of all major polar expeditions, Arctic and Antarctic
  • Numerous great stories, many that rival Roald Amundsen's journey to the South Pole and Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance voyage
  • Examines the intellectual, social, economic, and political forces surrounding each expedition
Author Info

William James Mills was librarian and keeper of collections at the world's largest polar library, located at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.



"[T]he work is wonderfully done, with each essay telling a fascinating story of Arctic and Antarctic exploration and discovery . . . The articles are very well-written and the work is an attractive two-volume set. . . . Most general reference sections will want to acquire this set. Geology, geography, and polar research special collections will find this a handy compendium."American Reference Books Annual

"[P]rovides over 500 well researched and fact filled articles that will appeal to anyone interested in polar exploration. Appropriate for reference where there is a strong demand, this is one of those sets that will also be welcomed in circulating collections, especially in larger libraries. In either case, both public and academic libraries will want to consider it for their shelves."Against the Grain

"This is an excellent and thorough resource for anyone interested in the history of polar exploration. It is highly recommended for academic and public libraries where there is interest in the Arctic and Antarctic."Booklist

"Mills . . . has produced a masterful encyclopedia covering Arctic and Antarctic exploration, 335 BCE to 2001. . . . Highly recommended. Academic, public, and high school libraries."Choice

"This is an impressive work which describes many little-known expeditions and aspects of polar exploration."The Northern Mariner


Outstanding Academic Title 2004 — CHOICE

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