Polar Expeditions : Discovering Rituals of Success within Hazardous Ventures book cover
1st Edition

Polar Expeditions
Discovering Rituals of Success within Hazardous Ventures

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after November 17, 2022
ISBN 9781032322896
November 17, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
192 Pages

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USD $42.95

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Book Description

Polar Expeditions employs structural ritualization theory to show how rituals enriched the lives of crewmembers on 19 polar expeditions over a 100-year period. J. David Knottnerus identifies and compares failed, successful, and extremely successful missions in terms of participation in ritual practices and the social psychological health of crews, finding that that social and personal rituals, such as work practices, religious activities, games, birthday parties, special dinners, or taking walks are extremely important in increasing crewmembers' ability to cope with the challenges they face including extreme dangers, isolation, restricted environment, stress, lengthy journeys, and quite importantly the disruption of those practices that define our everyday lives. Besides contributing to our knowledge about polar expeditions, this research yields implications for our understanding of ritual dynamics in other situations such as disasters, refugee camps, nursing homes, traumatic experiences, and a new type of hazardous venture, space exploration.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Expeditions and Rituals

2. Ritual Theory and Methodology: Life on Polar Expeditions

3. Failed Expeditions, by J. David Knottnerus, Kevin Johnson, and James D. Mason

The Grinnell Voyage: A Troubled Search for the Franklin Expedition

The Grinnell Expedition to Polar Greenland: Discord at Sea

The Jeanette's Search for the North Pole: A Tragic Venture

The Karluk Mission in the Northern Seas: An Arctic Disaster

A Russian Expedition to Siberia: Life and Death in the Arctic

The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition: Discord and Loss in the Arctic

The Polaris Expedition to the North Pole: A Recipe for Failure

The Belgica Expedition in Antarctica: Amundsen’s Account of a Flawed Mission

The HMS Enterprise in Search of the John Franklin: Conflicts of Authority and Ritual Failure

4. Successful Expeditions, by J. David Knottnerus, Kevin Johnson, and James D. Mason

The Voyage of the Isabel in Pursuit of the John Franklin: A Successful Journey to Greenland

A Land Journey in the North: The Team of Haig-Thomas and Nookap

A Quest for the South Pole: The Tragedy and Triumph of the Scott Expedition

First to the North Pole: Henson's Account of the Peary Expedition

Research in Antarctica: A Mid-Twentieth Century British Expedition

Science in Antarctica: A Mid-Twentieth Century American Expedition

5. Highly Successful Expeditions, by J. David Knottnerus, Kevin Johnson, and James D. Mason

The Discovery of the Northwest Passage: The Trials of the M’Clure Expedition

Heard Island, Antarctica: A Mid-Twentieth Century Australian Expedition

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition: Shackleton's Challenge

A Late Nineteenth Century Arctic Expedition: Nansen and the Fram

6. Conclusion

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J. David Knottnerus is Emeritus Regents Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. He has published extensively in the areas of ritual dynamics, social theory, social psychology, group processes, social structure, and social inequality. Much of his work in recent years has focused on the development of structural ritualization theory and research, which analyzes the role rituals play in social life.


"This book is an amazing exploration in its own right. The book brings together the rigorous Theory of Structural Ritualization and a careful and clever methodology, literary ethnography and content analysis. Nineteen expeditions are identified and analyzed and of those, nine are classified as failed, in the sense that the social fabric was irrevocably damaged, social rituals were rare, and conflicts, often violent, were common. Counter to these failed cases, in successful expeditions, collective rituals involving all crew members were common and, indeed, often planned by leadership. This book is a compelling analysis of how social rituals drive social life and group cohesion. It is rare (and so welcome!) for such an entertaining book to also be such a theoretically rich book."

Jane Sell, Texas A & M University

"Polar Expeditions reveals captivating details behind a century's worth of exploration into the most treacherous regions on earth. With groundbreaking sociological analysis, the book specifies activities leading to extreme levels of success in the face of hazardous challenges and prolonged periods of isolation. Professor Knottnerus breaks new ground by using structural ritualization theory to examine how crewmembers conquered disruption by reestablishing aspects of their lives back home. The book also focuses on goal attainment through the development of social bonds by way of work routines, collective events, and recreation. This book is essential reading for anyone wanting to know how to lead diverse groups of people. Readers will learn about open communication, developing grit, and generating solidarity, issues more timely now than ever."

Jason S. Ulsperger, Arkansas Tech University

"Polar Expeditions marks a watershed in social analysis. Knottnerus’ book establishes ritual practice as the missing link in understanding how crews adapt and crewmembers cope with the extreme confinement and isolation imposed by hazardous ventures."

Jeltje Gordon-Lennox, Psychotherapist and Editor of Coping Rituals in Fearful Times

"The Polar regions are the harshest environments on earth and expeditions into these regions face extreme conditions, isolation, and other unique challenges. What makes some expeditions succeed when others fail? Professor J. David Knottnerus provides valuable insights into this question by examining the role of rituals in providing meaning and focus during such hazardous undertakings. His book, Polar Expeditions: Rituals, Crews, and Hazardous Ventures, examines logbooks, diaries, and other first-person accounts from 19 expeditions occurring between 1850 and 1950 and applies Structural Ritualization Theory (SRT) to demonstrate the importance of rituals in shaping morale, comradery, and social cohesion among crewmembers. Expeditions that were able to develop new rituals were more successful than those who lacked robust reritualization practices. The result is a fascinating recounting of these expeditions as well as a clear advancement of SRT."

Duane Gill, Virginia Tech University