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Antarctica: Life on the Ice

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Antarctica: Life on the IceA decade ago, when I realized that I was never going to make it into the space program, I applied for a job in Antarctica. I have yet to receive the call from the Raytheon on behalf of the National Science Foundation, but Laura has been very supportive in fostering her mom's ambitions. For my birthday this year, she and her husband sent me Werner Herzog's DVD Encounters at the End of the World and Antarctica: Life on the Ice, a book of memoirs, edited by Susan Fox Rogers. In Life on the Ice, each story describes some facet of life or work in Antarctica. If I never get the call for placement in Antarctica, I can comfort myself with fantasies fulfilled by the stories herein.

Ms. Rogers includes contributions from a well-chosen cross-section of Antarctic workers: a dishwasher, a cook, a general assistant, a writer, a scientist and a bureaucrat. Karen Joyce, in "The Day it Rained Chickens" relates an hilarious tale of expedience, hubris and ultimate retribution for an overbearing bureaucrat. This story would entertain any reader, Antarctic fantasies or no. Another story with a broad appeal is also one of the most frightening. The moral of Kristan Hutchinson's "Antarctic Honeymoon" is that Antarctica is no place for a honeymoon.

Guy Guthridge in "Maverick Among Scientists," explains how the Artists and Writers program got its start, began attracting some big-name authors, such as Barry Lopez and Stephen J. Pyne, and drew the attention of Al Gore many years prior to the making of An Inconvenient Truth. In "Massif: Notes from an Unmaking," Artists and Writers Program grant winner Christopher Cokinos, explains with painful detail what can happen to the psyche of a person living in a tent for five weeks and hundreds of miles from the smallest glimmer of civilization.

"Shrink Rap" by Glenn Grant, sheds light on the universally dreaded "Psych Test" that is supposed to weed out the types who might go berserk while wintering over or camping out for weeks in the Antarctic, and comforts aspiring applicants with the assurance that as standard medical equipment, straight-jackets are kept somewhere near the body bags.

Hmmm. Now that I have fulfilled my fantasies with the Rogers book and Herzog DVD, being passed over for a job on The Ice feels a little less painful. Maybe next year. Wonder if I should study for the psych test.


  1. susan says:

Reply to Joyce McDonald

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