Book Launch: The Great Horizon The evening of Wednesday 1st November 2017 will live long in the memory of the RSGS. And, no doubt, in the memory of RSGS Writer-in-Residence, Jo Woolf. Though cold and dark on the streets of the Fair City, over 60 people braved the elements on this nippy winter’s night to attend the launch party for The Great Horizon, the first book in post from author, Jo. Penned and researched over the course of three years, it was a fitting celebration – complete with fizz, speeches and a cake worthy of the ‘Bake Off’ – to mark the release of what is a remarkable piece of work. And, for Jo, it was made extra special by a surprise visit from both of her grown-up daughters. Detailing 50 stories from explorers linked to the RSGS, The Great Horizon covers 150 years of exploits from a raft of extraordinary people. Some, such as Neil Armstrong, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Chris Bonington, you will, probably, have heard of. Others, however, you may not. Isobel Wylie Hutchison, Craig Mathieson, Isabella Bird and Fridtjof Nansen are not household names, but the beautifully crafted vignettes unearthed in Jo’s book outline many reasons why they should be… Fridtjof Nansen, for instance, was a handsome Norwegian explorer, who, during the latter part of the 19th century, spent much of his time travelling to the poles. Most notably, in 1889, Nansen completed what many at the time considered an insane plan. With a team of just five other men, Nansen and company made a remarkable east-west crossing of the Greenland ice sheet using only human-powered endurance and the primitive equipment available to them at the time. Along the way, Nansen struggled with ill-discipline amongst his men, and faced a myriad of dangers including ferocious snow storms, polar bears and deep crevasses. Nevertheless, Nansen’s forceful leadership somehow brought the team together, enabling them to cover a staggering 260 miles in total and discover, for the first time, the interior geography of Greenland’s ice sheet. Nansen’s findings and experiences were reported to the RSGS in a lecture presented in Edinburgh in July 1889, along with an associated article – currently stored in the RSGS archive – submitted to the Scottish Geographical Magazine that same year. Bringing The Great Horizon smack bang up-to-date is another name that might not be too familiar: Craig Mathieson. Brought up in Stirlingshire, Craig was captivated by the stories of the great polar explorers as a child, always dreaming of recreating the sorts of expeditions regaled by Shackleton, Scott and our aforementioned friend, Nansen. But, growing up, he found that many of the teachers around him were not that supportive of his ambition. As a result, his dream gradually began to fade into the background as he embarked on a career in the military, then later, finance… However, becoming bored with his career choices, 33-year old Craig soon realised it was high time he fulfilled his life’s ambition. So, with the support of benefactors such as Chris Tiso – head of outdoors shop chain, Tiso – Craig managed to raise over $80,000 to launch a Scottish-led expedition to the South Pole. Setting off in 2002, Craig began his two-month journey across the frozen southern continent, hauling his 160lb sled over snow and ice and burning in excess of 10,000 calories per day. Eventually, however, after trekking over 700 miles and surviving temperatures as low as ‑51°C, the South Pole base station popped up on the horizon, signalling the final destination of Craig’s long-held dream. On his return home to Scotland, Craig began talking to school children about his trip, and it was during this time that the idea hatched for a new charity, The Polar Academy. Spearheaded by Craig, this was formed to help quiet, low-self-esteem children embark on trips to extreme polar locations, building their confidence and furthering their ambition. Since its conception in 2014, numerous young adults fitting this criteria have gone on to fulfil their potential in the high latitudes of our planet, with the most recent trip in 2017 seeing ten school children from Edinburgh trekking over 100km of the Greenland Ice Sheet. For his services to polar exploration and his charitable vision, Craig was awarded the title of ‘Explorer-in-Residence’ by the RSGS, a post he has held since 2013. So, now that you’ve had a taste of The Great Horizon, and some of the marvellous characters detailed in Jo’s book, you’re probably wondering how to get hold of it… Well, the official release date given by the publisher, Sandstone Press, is Thursday 16th November. So, head online (http://sandstonepress.com/books/the-great-horizon) or get along to your nearest good book store, and you should find it there, retailing at a recommended price of £24.99. With Christmas on the ‘horizon’, it’s a perfect gift idea… Written by Communications Officer, James Cave. Research notes taken from Jo Woolf’s ‘The Great Horizon’.