Call of the White By Felicity Aston / Book Review

This book came into my life at just the right time. I’d been experiencing all of these horrible feelings of worthlessness and failure, and needed something that was going to make me sit up, wipe my eyes and get back on track with my goal to make it as a freelance writer and move to Norway. I wasn’t aware it was going to have the effect that it did on me, though. I just scooped it up, as I do with any book associated with the polar regions.

Sometimes, books which recount travels in the poles can be a bit, well, lacklustre. The author might be an incredible adventurer but writing just isn’t their forte. Felicity Aston is not one of these people. Her writing bloody leaps and soars off the page.

When I discovered Aston’s age, a little while into the book, I nearly choked on my tea. She was 31 when she led an all-female expedition to the South Pole. Yes, you read that right – 31. I’ve been thinking about her achievement ever since I finished this book a week ago, and it’s helped me lift myself up when I’ve felt my mood sinking.

Call of the White is a book about one woman’s mission to put together the most international, all-female expedition to ever set out for the South Pole. But, the team would not be experienced explorers. Instead, they would be ‘ordinary’ women who had a desire to inspire othes like them to follow their dreams.

The book starts with a prologue titled ‘Swept Underwater’ where Aston and her expedition members experienced an Antarctic storm in which their tents were damaged to the point where Aston thought there would be no expedition at all. A decent portion of the book is dedicated to Aston’s gargantuan efforts to find the right women, and raise enough cash so that the expedition could go ahead.

The most fascinating part of this section was when she was doing a mad tour across the world, scooting to New Zealand, Singapore, Cyprus, India, Brunei and Jamaica, and meeting woman after women who wanted a shot at the South Pole. I was hooked, and lapped up the pages, intrigued and eager to get an insight into why these women had decided to put themselves forward, to spend an extended period of time in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. It was fascinating to read Aston’s personal insight into these women, and the way in which she managed to quickly dissect a person’s character and their habits made for excellent reading.

Some of the women dropped out of the expedition, for multiple reasons, and one was asked to leave by Aston. As I read about some of the team members not doing absolutely everything in their power to be a part of the team, I felt waves of anger. They had THE opportunity of a lifetime and screwed it up. I appreciate fear might have been involved in some cases, but there were some instances where I wish I could have slapped one of the women around the face and screamed WAKE THE HELL UP!

Eventually, Aston had her team. It was made up of a civil servant from Brunei, and IT worker from Cyprus, a journalist from Ghana, a trekking guide from India, a political adviser from Jamaica, a military doctor from New Zealand, a mother from Singapore, and an outdoor activity instructor from England.

But the team underwent a disaster during their training, before the start of the expedition. Kim, the political advisor from Jamaica had her fingers damaged by frostbite and was unable to continue.

It made for fascinating reading, as the women moved towards the pole. At one point, one of the team members complained about not having lost weight off her face. Shit happened, of course it did. Equipment was damaged. Arguments were had. Food rations were left behind. But these women made it.

Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole was a truly enthralling read, recommended for anyone with a passion for the poles.



Publisher: Sommersdale Publishers Ltd

Date of Publication: 2011