This book gives the background to the building of the Discovery in Dundee, examining links between whaling, polar ships, marine engineering and polar ice rescues. It recounts the remarkable exploits of Dundee's ice master, Captain Harry McKay, whose experience of rescuing ships locked in pack ice with the aid of his new explosive techniques made him the Admiralty's choice to free Captain Scott and the crew of the Discovery from this fate in the Antarctic in 1904.
The author's research in Dundee, New Zealand and Australia has uncovered unpublished material including photographs and diaries from the two rescue ships and reveals for the first time how Merchant Navy captains - McKay of the Terra Nova and Colbeck of the Morning - blasted 18 miles of ice to free Scott. It is one of the most incredible Antarctic feats ever performed.
The book has a darker side and tells how Discovery's inexperienced leader consigned the two superbly competent captains, McKay and Colbeck, to oblivion and become a national hero in their stead. It is a study in mythmaking. Eyewitnesses contrast the false heroics, boasting, paranoia and maniacal insistence on Royal Navy discipline aboard Discovery with the work of the other two ships' captains, whose patient progress in getting the job done was achieved with great skill and supreme seamanship.