A Lust for Lists: Is the Ultimate Obtainable? by Tamia Nelson

Earlier this week, Tamia described her take on the Ten Essentials, those vital items of gear that no paddler should leave home without. And it will come as no surprise that a list lay at the heart of her article. Now she’s revisiting an article from the earliest days of In the Same Boat. The subject? Lists, of course — and the curious delight to be had in perusing them.

I have a confession to make. I love lists. When I pick up any book of traveler’s tales, the first thing I look for is the author’s gear list, and if I don’t find one, I feel let down. But whenever my search is rewarded, the effect is magical. I’m immediately transported from the here and now to somewhere else — somewhere remote in time or place.

Many years ago, on a visit to my local library in a predictably futile search for a technical monograph, I made a serendipitous discovery, a book that would carry me a very long way from my home in the Adirondack foothills, at least in spirit. The faded cover bore the one‑word title South, and the author was Ernest Shackleton, perhaps the hardest of all the hard men who headed for the high latitudes during the “heroic age” of polar exploration. Intrigued, I took the book down from the shelf and started to read. It proved to be Shackleton’s account of his ill‑fated attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in the years between 1914 and 1917. That expedition — it was styled “The Imperial Trans‑Antarctic Expedition” — failed in its objective, but it was indeed a heroic failure, accurately described by Shackleton himself as “a story … unique in the history of Antarctic exploration.” So compelling was the tale, in fact, that the expedition was the subject of a 1998 best‑seller, Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance.

I was sorely tempted to settle down in one of the library’s comfortable wing‑backed chairs and continue reading (those chairs have now been replaced by computer kiosks, I’m sorry to say), but I had work to do, and I was just about to put the book back when my eyes fell on — you guessed it — The List.… Read more…

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.