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"Ice Bound" by Jerri Nielsen

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ice.jpgWhat Sara Wheeler did for traveling in Antarctica, Jerri Nielsen's bestseller does for living in Antarctica. Dr. Nielsen made international news when she discovered that she had breast cancer during a long Antarctic winter at the South Pole. The base is customarily shut down during the nine months of winter because temperatures as low as -100 degrees Fahrenheit (-73 Celsius) and high winds prohibit the landing of any kind of craft at the base. (Jet fuel essentially turns to jelly at -58 Fahrenheit.)

Jerri Nielsen was stranded at the South Pole base with breast cancer, no way to get out, and no access to another physician. Dr. Nielsen's battle with cancer provides a dramatic backdrop for her equally compelling description of life on Antarctica's polar plateau. Living in extreme weather conditions and coping with 24 hours of darkness takes a toll on the human psyche. Base residents have developed some creative coping mechanisms--some mundane, others quite bizarre. Dr. Nielsen entertainingly describes day-to-day affairs such as running the company store (everyone takes a turn at the sales counter, including the doctor), holiday parties, and supply drops (because the cold prevents planes from landing, during favorable weather they fly over, drop supply crates, and hope they don't spill too many of their contents.) The more bizarre includes her bid to join the 300 club, which only accepts members when temperatures hit -100 degrees Fahrenheit. To gain membership one warms up in a 200 degree sauna, sprints outside wearing nothing but boots to circle around the South Pole flag, and returns to the sauna before losing too many appendages to frostbite. Equally enthralling is her biopsy surgery, which she was forced to perform herself with one of the base mechanics assisting.


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