Books & Literature

The Boy From Long Gully, by Wilson McOrist

BIOGRAPHY: In 1914, Richard Richards abandons his comfortable life as a science teacher in Australia, to join a support party for Ernest Shackleton, in a very unfamiliar place; the Antarctic. Due to unforeseen circumstances Richards and a number of his companions become stranded in the Antarctic.

A well-structured piece that combines character and history equally.

In the early 1900s, the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration was well and truly alive.

It is probable that you have only heard of the famous explorers, however all explorers rely on a team. This is the story of the Ross Sea Party for Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, led by Aeneas Mackintosh. The team’s job was to lay down food depots in preparation for Shackleton and his team’s expedition, however they become stranded. With a focus on science teacher and physicist Richard Richards’ role in the team, author Wilson McOrist honours the lone Australian in a team of Englishmen.

The story begins with a quick summary of each of the expedition crew’s background and how they came to become part of the team led by Mackintosh. This gives the reader an initial assessment of each of their characters, a portrayal that deepens as the story continues. McOrist has included photos, records, and sketches which serve as a reminder of its authenticity.

As for the Australian from Long Gully, it is only for protagonist Richards that an additional backstory is provided: a memory from his childhood. The inclusion of this memory is both necessary and logical. It explains to the reader how he was, at the age of 22, able to take on a leadership role. After all, in reality he was a science teacher hired to record weather observations and scientific data, not rescue men stranded in the snow and lead them to safety.

Before becoming stranded, the arduous conditions of the Antarctic were rarely touched upon, it was all about the experience of a unique adventure and landscape. The dialogue between members is of its unmatchable beauty and silence. As time wears on, however, the dialogue changes.

From awe and joy, the dialogue turns to the mistakes of Mackintosh, to squabbles between members, and then to the talk of those unsure of their survival. As the crew reminisces about the pleasures we take for granted every day, they also fixate on all the little things, such as getting sleep and eating. We hear of frozen sleeping bags with ice that melts from body heat when one goes to bed. Dwindling rations. And worst of all, merciless blizzards, the bitter cold, and never being dry.

Celebrated in this story, Richard Richards is an unsung hero whose courage and skill is paired with the compassion and admiration you will feel as you learn of his part in history. In 1923 he became an Albert Medal recipient for his efforts to save two of his team members (Spencer-Smith and Mackintosh).

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Big Sky Publishing
Released: September 2021
RRP: $29.99

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