Monday, January 07, 2008


The Book: Sara Wheeler, TERRA INCOGNITA: Travels in Antarctica. Modern Library trade paperback reprint, 1999. Very good condition; some rubbing and creasing at corners.
First read: 2000
Owned since: 2000.

The history of Antarctica is a history of men, mostly. Even now, the number of women who have spent any extended time on Antarctica is probably only in the dozens. Writer Sara Wheeler applied for and won a National Science Foundation Artists & Writers grant to spend three months there in 1993, and this book is the product of that trip.

Wheeler retraces the steps of most of the major Antarctic explorers, telling their stories in the process and giving us Antarctica through her eyes, with all the benefits of modern technology. Even with satellite phones and microfiber insulation, Antarctica is the end of the earth, the highest, driest, coldest, windiest place on the planet. It is more than a metaphor, but the metaphor is so powerful I am tempted once again, as I pick up this book, to put in my own application to go.

Here in northern New England, it's much warmer today. Temperatures are supposed to hit the 40s, and everything's melting fast. Later this afternoon I'll see if I can chip the last of my own personal ice sheet off the front deck.

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