Thursday, November 17, 2011

THE FROZEN SOUTH: JOURNEYS TO ANTARCTICA

Hopefully we won't face any great weather extremes this winter--but reading about a place that's a whole lot colder than St. Louis should make whatever we face seem no big deal by comparison!

Arneson, Liv, Bancroft, Ann, and Cheryl Dahle. No Horizon is So Far: Two Women and Their Extraordinary Journey Across Antarctica. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. HG 919.8904

Antarctica: Great Stories From the Frozen Continent. Sydney: Reader's Digest, 1985. ST-Oversize 919.8904

Campbell, David G. The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1992. ST 508.98

Parfit, Michael. South Light: a Journey to the Lost Continent. NY: Macmillan, 1985. ST 919.8904

Free-lance writer Parfit spent a full season in Antarctica under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. He was able to travel widely while there, visiting McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, and Russian and Chilean research stations to name but a few places, traveling at times in an ice-breaker to get there. Although his main focus is the people who choose to live and work at research stations in Antarctica, he also manages to paint unforgettable glimpses of the polar landscape and the frozen continent's amazing fauna. He captures in lively and lovely prose the thrill of adventure and the pursuit of scientific discovery, and will make readers who have even the slightest interest in the place very sorry that they have never been there. A first-rate book about a fascinating place.

Pyne, Stephen J. The Ice: a Journey to Antarctica. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998. ST 919.8904

Rosove, Michael H. Let Heroes Speak: Antarctic Explorers, 1772-1922. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000. HG 919.89904

It's remarkable how many explorers of the Antarctic were also gifted writers, and compiler Rosove here allows them to speak for themselves. Famous Antarctic explorers like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton are accorded their due, but so are other, less well-known adventurers. Nearly all of them appear to have been involved in a love-hate relationship with the Frozen South: all speak of its bleakness and unforgiving nature (Scott wrote, "Great God! This is an awful place!"), yet most also speak of encountering scenes of awesome beauty and grandeur (a member of Shackleton's expedition said of a thousand-foot-wide ice crevasse that, "The whole was the wildest, maddest, and yet the grandest thing imaginable."). The English poet John Keats wrote a poem titled "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," which translates as the beautiful lady without mercy. Judging by their writings, it seems obvious that these explorers would have no trouble believing that the subject of Keat's poem was Antarctica, a beautiful but forbidding mistress every bit as cruel and then some as any that exists in fact or fiction.

Shackleton, Ernest Henry. South: the Last Antarctic Expedition of Shackleton and the Endurance. NY: Lyons Press, 1998. ST 919.8904092

Smith, Roff Martin. Life on the Ice: No One Goes to Antarctica Alone. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005. HG 919.89

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