People often ask me to recommend books about Antarctica. If you follow this sub-(zero) genre of publishing, you know this is actually a rather crowded field. Books about Antarctica seem to float northwards to our warmer climes with ever greater frequency. With the important caveat that I may change my mind tomorrow, here are my current Top 5 Antarctic Books of All Time -- and yes, they are in no particular order. Depending on your mood, the barometric pressure, the result of the most recent political debate, whether or not you believe in Nature, or what have you, the order will shift according to your preferences and desires. And mine.
1) My Life as an Explorer, by Roald Amundsen. Amundsen first bashed through the Northwest Passage and then slipped by the British to be first to the South Pole on December 11, 1911.
2) The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica, by David G. Campbell. Campbell spent three summers in Antarctica. He offers a singular, beautiful account, balancing the explorer's life with a richly detailed account of The Ice. Antarctica is seen as it is, a wholly alien landscape offering a magic found nowhere else on Earth.
3) Antarctica: The Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent. This encyclopedic compilation of Antarctic facts is an excellent primer on the continent's brief human history.
4) Shackleton's Boat Journey, by Frank Arthur Worsley. Worsley was commander of Shackleton's ship, Endurance, which was lost to the ice in 1915. The men were trapped for three seasons in the pounding cold and ice before Worsley masterminded and pulled off the greatest feat of small boat navigation known to man.*
(*Actually, known to "white" or "Western" man. For my money, the Polynesians had them all beat.)
5) The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. The greatest of all Antarctic books, a haunting, humane account of Scott's final, tragic march to the South Pole.
So. This should get you going. Then grab my book and see how people today make sense of Antarctica: From gift shops that sell Antarctic novelties to the museum keepers and their never-ending work to keep the stories straight.
Tomorrow, I'll talk about those gift shops, which I am embarrassed to say occupy my mind more than they ought to...
Causes Leslie Roberts Supports
Environmental causes of all stripes