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August 24, 2005 at 7:12 pm #861
I would like to purchase a book about daily life in Antarctica, but I’ve discovered there are a few out there. To those of you who are actually living on the Ice, would you recommend either of these books?
Life On The Ice: No One Goes To Antarctica Alone
by Roff Smith.
Big Dead Place: Inside The Strange And Menacing World Of Antarctica
by Nicholas Johnson.
Cheers, JulieAugust 24, 2005 at 7:16 pm #8267Been ThereMember
Big Dead Place is really a book for insiders. If you have not been in the program before you will not understand much of what is in BDP and will not have any experiences of your own to compare. Not aware of any good books on the current program but you can look at the SunTimes newspaper by going to the contractor’s web site at polar.orgAugust 24, 2005 at 11:11 pm #8268
I think Mike’s web site gives some excellent insight into daily life. Between the pictures and the discussions, it conveys a lot of variety. URL: http://groups.msn.com/antarcticmemories/anantarcticexperience.msnw
For all the flaws, the made-for-TV saga Ice Bound about Jerri Nielsen’s (sp?) experience did a good job of showing the environment of the South Pole. I don’t know if the show is available anywhere, but the book is probably still in print.
I just finished the Big Dead Place book a couple weeks ago. Yo, Nick, could you have been any more offensive? Profanity and sexual exploits aside, I found it interesting because I was at McMurdo for the entire year he recounts in the book — including being at the Pole at roughly the same time. Despite the pseudonyms, I could identify almost everybody. Factually, it’s mostly correct, and I agree with some of his observations. But what bothers me is that anyone reading that (without having been there) will think that the entire crew was a bunch of drunken miscreants. He manages to avoid talking about the boring 95% who just want to get along, do their jobs, and maybe enjoy their time on the Ice. I agree with Been There: perhaps fun for insiders, but not a good intro.
My best book suggestion would be Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita. Again, it’s just one person’s perspective, but it presents a somewhat more balanced view.
gAugust 25, 2005 at 12:45 am #8269
Thanks for the feed back, Been There and Glenn!
I’ve odered a copy of Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Cheers, JulieAugust 25, 2005 at 4:17 am #8270AnonymousMember
I second Glenn’s advise on Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita….a pretty good intro to the Ice from a nice and crazy Brit! She did have some good times with the McM crew!
She has a great intuition about place and found it on the Ice…she fell in love……August 25, 2005 at 11:42 pm #8271
I haven’t seen either Big Dead Place or Life on the Ice yet for obvious reasons–they both came out after Pole closed 🙂 but they’re certainly on my want list. One relevant question is, what sort of “daily life” is one interested in reading about? The extreme example, of course, is that many of us have read about Amundsen’s or Scott’s “daily life”…
Even among the 86 folks here there are many different lifestyles. Glenn’s comments about Nick Johnson’s book are probably appropriate. I enjoyed reading Sara Wheeler’s book, but the experiences of a writer who has lots of time to travel, visit various people and sites, and sit around and think and write (without having to get up and go to work every day) might leave the potential GA a bit disillusioned to say the least.
The best contemporary stuff is probably to be found on blogs…there are a few good McMurdo ones, but the last time I recommended a good Polie blog the author complained, so I’d better not upset anyone else… In addition to this place, I highly recommend Mike’s site (that Glenn mentioned)…and for the Polie side of life I’ve got a pretty good list of conventional web sites here: http://www.southpolestation.com/links.html. Of course the stories and photos that appear on web sites tend to be parties and fun stuff rather than the daily grind…August 26, 2005 at 1:25 am #8272
I enjoyed reading Sara Wheeler’s book, but the experiences of a writer who has lots of time to travel, visit various people and sites, and sit around and think and write (without having to get up and go to work every day) might leave the potential GA a bit disillusioned to say the least.
Yeah, that’s true. There isn’t much out there about the workaday folks, however, and that’s all I could think of. Julie, be forewarned that Sara was an invited writer, and as Bill says she had the advantage of being able to visit a lot of nifty places without having to work long hours at some grinding job. Still, her book does describe things fairly well, and worker-bees who return year after year eventually see many of the things she did, if not more. Just don’t expect the same red carpet treatment. 😉
This past year a writer named Susan Fox Rogers (another invited writer from the Artists and Writers program) has been putting together an anthology of writing from people who work on the Ice, although it may be some time before that’s in publication. When it’s out, though, it might be more apropos for the average schmo, if you know what I mean.August 26, 2005 at 4:28 am #8273
Thanks Glenn and Bill!
I’m just trying to get a feel for what life is like on the Ice. I worked in the NWTs (Canada) for a year and it sounds similar in some ways. A small number of people isolated in a small place working in the dark. 🙂
I’ll check out Mike’s site and have a look at all those links on Bill’s site. You’ve got a ton of good stuff there, Bill. 🙂
Cheers, JulieAugust 27, 2005 at 1:25 am #8274
Glenn, coincidentally, folks at lunch yesterday were talking about Gabrielle Walker, another writer who spent a week or so here last summer (before I was here). You may have run into her, she did a fair amount of traveling including Concordia. She was interviewing winterovers in preparation for a book on that subject. Another one to watch for.
And speaking of Concordia, Guilliaume Dargaud (http://www.gdargaud.net/Antarctica/WinterDC1.html) has an excellent one going on his first winter there, about 12 folks…August 28, 2005 at 8:12 am #8275thepooles98Keymaster
My take on what life is like down here- Think of back in your first year of college. Freshman year. First time from home. Party Party. If you wrote a book about it, it would be a hit. Lots of shenanagins to spice up the writings. Trouble is that it’s just the freshman class. By the time you are a senior. You are into studies, and tired of the parties. You still go, but you don’t fit in with the freshmen anymore. If you wrote a book, it would be factual but no one would buy it.
Thats life at McMurdo. Most of us don’t fit the mold of anything that would make a hit book.
Go on this site and mine. Ask lots of questions. The people who answer are real people who will give you insights and viewpoints that vary from across the workplace. Some are the Freshmen(fingies) others have been here forever. You decide from their answers which is your lifestyle.
mikeAugust 28, 2005 at 4:48 pm #8276
Thanks, Mike! That’s a great analogy. I had an ‘ah ha!’ moment as I read it. I hope you’re doing the ‘first timer on the Ice’ orentation for people when they arrive in McMurdo. 🙂
Cheers, JulieAugust 29, 2005 at 8:47 pm #8277
Good one Mike…I like that too, even though it does make me feel a bit older 🙂 now if I just could remember where I left my cane…
Yes, there are folks here who weren’t even born when I wintered the first time…some good folks that usually seem to stay up later than I do. But so do the folks who are about my age…hmmmm.September 2, 2005 at 3:35 pm #8278
I got my copy of Sara Wheeler’s ‘Terra Incognita’ and am enjoying it immensely.
I also ordered a copy of Lonely Planet’s Antarctica travel guide. It’s actually very helpful. It has a large glossary of ‘Antarctica speak’, some of the history of the continent and lots of great information.
Cheers, JulieSeptember 11, 2005 at 7:08 pm #8279AnonymousMember
I ordered Big Dead Place as soon as it came out. I enjoyed the book a lot despite it being a bit crass in some areas. You will think its pure nonsense if you read it without going to the Ice first. If you have been to the Ice, then parts of it will bring back memories and parts of it you will know its an exageration of Nick’s feelings on the subject. I was on Ice 2 years after Nick, yet his stories all sound familiar in a way. His book is mostly about the people of McMurdo (whether true or make-believe or legendary), and not about penguins and nacreous clouds.
Jerri Neilson’s book Icebound gave me a good feeling about going to the Ice. I read that book before going, and it made me want to go even more. If I were to read Nick’s book before going, I wouldve been a little afraid of the place.September 30, 2005 at 1:21 pm #8280
The Seattle Times’ review of BDP:
(Not sure how long that URL will be active)
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