|Author||Stephen J. Pyne|
"Stephen Pyne has written an imaginative book that combines a geophysical description of Antarctica with a history of attempts to explore and assimilate intellectually this remote and strange continent."
Like the previous reviewer, I too quailed at the start of this book. Immediately I was plunged to half page paragraphs and dense terms, swimming between excessive description and dense science. But, I'm a geologist. I've been to Antarctica. I knew I could do it...
I suspect that this book will remain unsurpassed for being an all encompassing tome on Antarctica for decades, possibly even centuries ... maybe even until we emerege from this interglacial period and the Western Ice sheet melts, thus giving up the secrets to climate control and Antarctica. I can't imagine much has been left out at all - Pyne is unbelievably, incredibly thorough. Every facet of the ice, and every facet he could think to associate with ice has been methodically slotted into this book. And if he ran out of talking about anything to do with the ice, he'd talk about Antarctica.
But this book is very, very, very, VERY heavy going. I set myself a goal of 25 pages/night - but it still took 2 months to read... Sometimes, I just had to take a break. And as I ploughed ever onwards, I constantly wondered, 'how would someone be able to read this if they hadn't actually been to Antactica???' And other times, I even qualified that with a "would anyone really understand this if they weren't a geologist or in a similar field?' I mean, Pyne can be descriptive, but at other times, adjectives seem to be insufficient, so he swoops into heavy scientific jargon.
I also missed having some diagrams. A few 'colour' photos even... (Ok, colour is a bit misleading - its all white, blue and grey down there...). Antarctica is so stark and sparse, that sometimes, it is just better to look at a photograph of the deep glacier blue of ice (well, actually, WHY ice is blue was something Pyne overlooked in this book, now I think of it! Rainbows and bubbles people...), or a vast plain of continental ice, or the weird solar and weather patterns that can pervade above the ice...
If you can't make it down to Antarctica, but want to become an authority on it, then you can go no further than this book. If wading through the heaviest and densest book written in a long time is something you will need to build up to, the maybe start with something like, Antarctica: The Blue Continent, and see if you want to progress from there - at least then you will have some pictures in mind of what to expect when Pyne melts into deep prose...