Riffenburgh, Beau 1955-

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Riffenburgh, Beau 1955-


Born 1955, in CA. Education: Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, Ph.D.


Home—Wales. Agent—Sarah Fisher, 79 St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4RE, England. E-mail[email protected]


Historian and writer. University of Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England, lecturer in history and editor of Polar Record, 1995—. Also served as football coach at University of Cambridge and University of Hertfordshire.



(With David Ross) Running Wild: A Pictorial Tribute to the NFL's Greatest Runners, NFL Properties (Los Angeles, CA), 1984.

(With David Ross) Great Ones: NFL Quarterbacks from Baugh to Montana, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Ken Thomas) The American Football Almanac, Lochar (Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland), 1991.

The Myth of the Explorer: The Press, Sensationalism, and Geographical Discovery, Belhaven (London, England), 1993, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Elizabeth Cruwys) Explore Britain's Castles, AA Publishing (Basingstoke, England), 1995.

(With Elizabeth Cruwys) Cathedrals of the World: Eighty-three Magnificent Cathedrals from around the World, AA Publishing (Basingstoke, England), 1997.

(With Elizabeth Cruwys) The Photographs of H.G. Ponting, edited by Jonathan Jeffes, Discovery Gallery (London, England), 1998.

Nimrod: Ernest Shackleton and the Extraordinary Story of the 1907-09 British Antarctic Expedition, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004, published as Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition: The Voyage of the Nimrod, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) Encyclopedia of the Antarctic, two volumes, Routledge (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including The Official NFL Encyclopedia, New American Library (New York, NY), 1986; Literature of Travel and Exploration, Routledge (New York, NY), 2003; and With Scott to the Pole: The Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004. Member of advisory board, Encyclopedia of the Arctic.


Beau Riffenburgh is an author and historian specializing in polar exploration. A member of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, he has served as the editor of Polar Record, the world's oldest journal of polar research. Riffenburgh is the author of such highly regarded works as The Myth of the Explorer: The Press, Sensationalism, and Geographical Discovery and his edited works include the Encyclopedia of the Antarctic.

In 2004, Riffenburgh published Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition: The Voyage of the Nimrod—published in England as Nimrod: Ernest Shackleton and the Extraordinary Story of the 1907-09 British Antarctic Expedition—an account of a British-sponsored Antarctic expedition fronted by legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton is best remembered for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16, in which his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in sea ice, forcing the crew to abandon the vessel and make an arduous overland trek in frigid temperatures. After hiking along the coast to the sea, Shackleton left his men and made a hazardous 800-mile open boat journey to South Georgia Island, where he organized a rescue team and saved those he had left behind. "It is ironic that in terms of Shackleton's goal, the first crossing of Antarctica, that expedition was a total failure, in that Shackleton did not even achieve a landing on the continent," noted reviewer William Barr in Arctic. "Even more ironic," the critic added, "is the fact that Shackleton's earlier expedition, the British Antarctic expedition of 1907-09, which is the subject of this book, and for which Shackleton earned his knighthood, was vastly more successful but till now has remained almost totally unknown to the general public."

In Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition, Riffenburgh details the explorer's remarkable but now-overlooked journey, a journey achieved under incredibly harsh conditions. Captaining the Nimrod, he and his crew set off for Antarctica on January 1, 1908, with the stated goal of reaching the South Pole. The expedition ultimately fell short of its mission, coming within ninety-seven miles of the Pole. "The journey south, undertaken by Shackleton and only three others, was as terrifying as it was hazardous," stated London Times contributor Michael Binyon. "Beset by crevasses, constantly short of food, exhausted, frostbitten and assailed by blizzards, altitude sickness and psychological strain, the party survived only through 'providence,' Shackleton's leadership and his agonising decision to turn back before reaching the pole or face certain starvation." According to Barr, the explorer "has long been praised for his decision to turn back only ninety-seven miles from the Pole, thus saving the lives of himself and his companions. Riffenburgh has characterized this as 'one of the most courageous acts ever performed by an explorer,' one 'that had taken a mettle, a fortitude, a strength of mind, character and spirit that set him apart from other heroes of his time,' and which 'elevated him to a higher pantheon of heroes than other polar explorers.'"

Despite their inability to achieve their primary goal, Shackleton and his crew did record several notable accomplishments, including the first ascent of Mount Erebus, an active volcano; the location of the South Magnetic Pole; and the establishment of a route up the region's Beardmore Glacier. "Riffenburgh does a fine job of assembling the scattered records of the voyage from logs, diaries, and other accounts," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and Barr similarly noted that the author "has produced a superb portrayal of the background, operations, and achievements of the British Antarctic Expedition, which he accurately characterizes as 'Shackleton's most significant geographical accomplishments, greatest deeds and most momentous decisions.'" In the words of a Publishers Weekly critic, Riffenburgh presents the story as a "gripping adventure, which laid the foundations of Shackleton's capacity for brilliant leadership under pressure."



Arctic, June, 2005, William Barr, review of Nimrod: Ernest Shackleton and the Extraordinary Story of the 1907-09 British Antarctic Expedition, p. 221.

Booklist, October 15, 1994, George Cohen, review of Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition: The Voyage of the Nimrod, p. 382.

Choice, October, 1993, review of The Myth of the Explorer: The Press, Sensationalism, and Geographical Discovery, p. 282.

Geographical Journal, July, 1994, Ann Savours, review of The Myth of the Explorer, p. 224; April 1999, review of The Photographs of H.G. Ponting, p. 66.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition, p. 906.

Kliatt, March, 2006, Raymond Puffer, review of Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition, p. 36.

Publishers Weekly, September 27, 2004, review of Shackleton's Forgotten Expedition, p. 46.

Times (London, England), October 9, 2004, Michael Binyon, "A Good Man in a Crisis," review of Nimrod, p. 15.

Times Literary Supplement, November 26, 2004, Piers Moore Ede, review of Nimrod, pp. 32-33.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1990, review of Great Ones: NFL Quarterbacks from Baugh to Montana, p. 55.*

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