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May 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm #584
I came across the book “Big, Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica” by Nicholas Johnson on Amazon. Reviews were mixed. Anyone care to chime in with their own opinion?May 17, 2008 at 10:11 pm #5590MightyAtlasModerator
There is truth in his musings, but don’t take it as gospel. Some events have been exaggerated. It’s definitely ‘slanted’…but entertaining, none the less.May 18, 2008 at 3:28 am #5591Been_ThereMember
Nick’s book is one view point. It is interesting that he clearly does not enjoy being involved in the program, but comes back. In fact I believe he is at McMurdo this winter.
While most of his tales are based on actual happenings, he has more than a few mistakes in the facts, and, as I said, only his view point. As you read other posts on this blog site, and others, you will get a bigger picture of the program but the only way to truly understand why folks go back year after year is to experience it for yourself and see if it’s for you. May be, or may be not your cup of tea.
Those of us that got bit early on, and I am sure one of them, always say things about the experience of working in Antarctica being special, but most importantly, to me for sure, and many others, its the great group of people you get to work with. Nothing like it anywere else I have ever been.
BTMay 18, 2008 at 5:33 am #5592
I thought it was an amusing read, but not exactly great literature. I’m still just an Ice-y wannabe so I can’t chime in on the accuracy, but I’d recommend it for some light reading if you can find a used copy cheap. Personally, my favorite book about living on the Ice is 90o (degrees) South by Paul Siple. It won’t tell you a lot about how things are now, but it’s a great (and funny) portrait of the first year at the Pole station.May 18, 2008 at 6:16 am #5593SciencetechKeymaster
I was at McMurdo that same winter (described in BDP). Most of the facts are correct but you’d get a pretty weird view of life there if that’s you’re only source of information.May 18, 2008 at 6:54 am #5594
How’s this for a good one. Read “Antarctica,” by Kim Stanley Robinson.
He is a science fiction writer that got a writers grant to go to Antarctica a few years back. The book is science fiction, but you know by the little details that he has been there. It’s the most entertaining book I’ve read on the place.
I was also there the winter the book was mostly written about. All in all it is reasonably factual. However, all he did was pull the odd stuff out of living that winter. He takes little bits here and there and writes it as if the entire time on the ice is like that. It just isn’t so.
Sort of a litterary Dilbert to me.
May 18, 2008 at 8:15 am #5595
Nice to see a lively conversation about Ice literature. I just got the book, so I can’t say anything about it at all (not to mention that I have not yet worked in Antarctica). It did seem that based on the description of the book it would be something of a collection of “strange and unusual” events that took place at one particular point in time on the Ice. No doubt a person could find equally bizarre events happening in most all walks of life–you just gotta tune in the “crazy” radar and there they are all around you.
-=CHMay 18, 2008 at 8:28 am #5596
“Antarctica” by Kim Stanley Robinson is a good book! I had a hard time getting through the first few chapters, but by the end I was really fond of X. Lucky little sandwich.May 18, 2008 at 9:30 am #5597
I want to slide down the tubes at the poleMay 18, 2008 at 11:13 am #5598SciencetechKeymaster
That year (the BDP book talks about) was especially bizarre. And I think he missed the all-night Twinky gun party in 155 — a subject better discussed over a beer…
> I want to slide down the tubes at the pole
We’re all ‘going down the tubes’ at the pole. Ha.May 18, 2008 at 12:03 pm #5599
It was a fun and bizarre winter. The winter of controversy is what we called it.
Nicks book would have been almost boring had he written about any other winter.
MMay 18, 2008 at 4:24 pm #5600skua77Keymaster
> I want to slide down the tubes at the pole
It was immediately obvious that Kim Stanley Robinson was quite well treated, as it were, by the Polies during his visit.
I highly recommend “Antarctica.”May 19, 2008 at 12:36 am #5601
I enjoyed the book. I laughed at almost every page. Its funny, you can change the names of the people and insert who ever you want, and it still makes sense and is funny. I think if you havent been to the ice, it might seem bizarre. I think its a more enjoyable read if you have been there. AmyMay 23, 2008 at 8:56 am #5602
I am now about half way into the Robinson book and am wondering how accurate parts of it are. Is the depiction of a very divisive “class” structure at McMurdo accurate?
Also, was there actually a visiting artist who in an attempt to imitate a seal ran into some trouble with a whale? And is there video of it?
mikeMay 23, 2008 at 12:00 pm #5603
The specifics are mostly literary freedoms to make the story. What is more true is the general nature of life on the ice. He talks about his ice girlfriend who wouldn’t talk to him the next year, or the drudgery of working on a traverse. There is no automated trains, or helium ballons. There is an old south pole station that predates the dome. It is buried in the ice, and people have been known to visit it, but the buildings are slowly being crushed and is off limits and unsafe.
They do melt the ice for drinking water, which makes big underground caverns, They do not to the best of my knowledge have anyone enter them, let alone go swimming. Instead they fill them with sewage.
There are plenty of seal, penguin, whale, skua etc encounters. Although we are under the rules of the Antarctic Treaty and potential 10k fines, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear of a grantee violating them momentary or by accident. The employees for the most part take the treaty pretty seriously. There is the odd person who in ignorance, tries to feed a skua. There is more often the clueless person walking out the door with food that gets attacked by a skua loses the food.
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