After writing two highly praised travel books, Sara Wheeler was accepted by the American government to be the first foreigner on their National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists' and Writers Program. She spent seven months on the continent, travelling from the fabled Ross Ice Shelf to the Pole itself, the remoter reaches of the West Antarctic ...
After writing two highly praised travel books, Sara Wheeler was accepted by the American government to be the first foreigner on their National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists' and Writers Program. She spent seven months on the continent, travelling from the fabled Ross Ice Shelf to the Pole itself, the remoter reaches of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the balmy Antarctic Peninsula. Terra Incognita is a meditation on the landscape, myths and history of one of the remotest parts of the globe, as well as an encounter with the international temporary residents of the region - living in close confinement despite the surrounding acres of white space - and the mechanics of day-to-day life in extraordinary conditions. Through Sara Wheeler, the Antarctic is revealed, in all its seductive mystery.
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Publishers Weekly, 1998-02-23 Journalist Wheeler (Travels in a Thin Country, on Chile) spent more than two years researching and organizing a seven-month journey to Antarctica, becoming the first foreigner to join the American National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists' and Writers' Program. Her wry, lucid account of that journey juxtaposes the epic exploits of heroic early Antarctic explorers (Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amunden, Douglas Mawson, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, et al.) with her own adventures. She offers a critical survey of the literature of Antarctic exploration and provides as well insights into the historical and cultural impact of Antarctic exploration on the British and Norwegian national consciousnesses. While the hardships the intrepid Wheeler suffered are a faint echo of those endured by polar pioneers, there's still a wealth of absorbing detail to make the point: use and operation of toilets in subzero; foodstuffs and their creative preparation; transportation, be it dogsled, skis or snowmobile; proper layering of protective clothing; the leisure activities and quirks of the varied scientists and support crews ("Frozen Beards") she encountered. Along the way, she offers a rare woman's view of a thoroughly male place, tolerant of women in most cases but downright hostile in some (as in the U.K. zone). Wheeler writes elegantly and movingly about the unearthly landscape and its effects: "The twin peaks... were backlit against a pearly blue sky.... Ribboned crystals imprisoned in the ice glimmered like glowworms. It was swathed in light, pale as an unripe lemon. The scene said to me, `Do not be afraid.' It was like the moment when I pass back the chalice after holy communion." Her book, fascinating reading for any explorer, armchair or otherwise, concludes with the recipe for her renowned "Bread-and-Butter Pudding (Antarctic Version)." (Mar.)
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