HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by…
Loading...

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (original 1996; edition 1999)

by Sara Wheeler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
307936,351 (4.01)20
Member:legxleg
Title:Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica
Authors:Sara Wheeler
Info:Modern Library (1999), Edition: Modern Library pbk. ed, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, Antarctica, Books Read in 2012, books I own
Rating:****
Tags:memoir, Antarctica, 2012read, audiobook

Work details

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by Sara Wheeler (1996)

None

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
i find antarctica really boring to read about. it's just cold and white. maybe being there is a different experience. the history of antarctic exploration was the only thing i found interesting in this book. i would space out while she was wring about antarctica and its people(her main interest?)and then come to for the history parts. at 330 pages it was way too long. there were only 3 maps and most of the places she mentioned were't on the maps so i mostly never knew where she was. did she? ( )
  mahallett | Dec 26, 2012 |
I was her escort in one of her stories and she wrote me right out of it!!
  ziziaaurea | Oct 31, 2010 |
It probably takes an odd duck to think that traveling to Antarctica would be simply amazing. I am that odd duck. I would love to one day visit this ice bound continent. And that's not likely to happen any time soon so reading about someone who did make that trip is next best. And if I'm an odd duck for thinking I'd love to go, Sara Wheeler is probably an even odder duck (or perhaps that should be odder penguin) for having gone.

The book is both a travel memoir and a history of man's famed and forgotten travels in the frozen south. Wheeler interweaves her own travels, planned and spur of the moment, through the icy continent, visiting scientific bases and outposts, learning about the realities of life on the ice now with excerpts from Scott and Aumundsen and Shackleton's journeys. The historical information is never overwhelming, instead adding dimension to the experiences that Wheeler herself has in her journeys through Antarctica. Both the modern day and historical travels are fascinating. Wheeler also spends much time describing the other people who live and work on the ice. All of them are clearly a breed apart and all are moved by their time on the ice.

This is more contemplative than many travelogues but it is no less descriptive than most for taking place in a landscape that is, on first impression, so uniform. Wheeler captures the hardships that plague life on the ice in vivid language but she also celebrates this still so unknown continent also. Wheeler's trip to the actual South Pole is merely one instance of her travels around and given no more importance than her other camp visits. Her final weeks, spent with only one artist companion, in a hut set aside for their creative endeavors offers a sense of peace and closure to the end of her journeyings. Readers with an interest in history and the Antarctic will enjoy this slow and thorough narrative of a summer (and part of a winter) in the south. ( )
  whitreidtan | Oct 29, 2009 |
Amazing read. Funny, intelligent and enlightening. A trip to Antarctica is in order, I feel. You sometimes need a dictionary for some of the obtuse words she uses. ( )
  simondavies | Sep 30, 2009 |
This is a book that has sat on my shelf for a number of years, awaiting that moment when I was in the mood for an Exploration Memoir. I had a certain degree of high expectation about the book based upon initial reviews that talked about a "rare" and "extraordinary" book. After finishing the book, I can't quibble with "rare"—how many authors have travel books about Antarctica, after all? I do, however, disagree with the "extraordinary" part.

Ms. Wheeler does some things quite well. The book is full of stories about Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Wilson and a host of other figures from the early days of polar exploration. These stories are timed beautifully and go into just enough depth that they bring those early days to life. Rather than being a distraction from her adventures, they serve as a backdrop that provides color and contrast to the present.

She does an equally good job of giving you a picture of what life is like now, filling the book with tiny little details that turn abstract facts into vivid images—calling -50°C "cold" is true, but abstract; saying that -10°C "had come to seem tropical" is only slightly more real; saying that they threw a cup of boiling water in the air and it hit the ground as ice makes it all very clear.

The book is also full of a fair amount of humor at life in this extreme environment, ranging from the simply amusing (hang your clothes by a quick lick on the collar and then pressing them against the ice-covered walls of the cabin) through the faintly appalling ("solids only" outhouses that can short out and electrocute you if you deposit liquids).

There is no central theme or defining journey in this book. Her adventures were mostly spur-of-the-moment, taking advantage of opportunities to visit this station or that as they presented themselves. Rather than feeling diffuse, I think this worked well. It gave the book a real feeling of "I want to see everything!" as she moved from helping unload cargo to apprenticing at one scientific site or another.

Yet, the book fails to reach "extraordinary."

She is, at times, mean-spirited. The inhabitants of the Antarctic stations are mostly male and, of course, any largely-single-sex environment is going to provide amusement or annoyance to members of the opposite gender...depending upon how much they are affected by it. However, her tone was not one of amusement or even irritation; it was one of unending condescension and superciliousness. Her British hosts (she was a guest at several national camps during her time in Antarctica) come in for particular slighting. This appears to have been triggered by the fact that she wasn't made much of on her arrival (though it's not explicit, my reading of the events is that she arrived during the changeover period when those who had been isolated for nine months by the winter finally got to see their friends again) and wasn't immediately made an intimate in a group of individuals who had spent months and years isolated together.

I also found the story a little too mawkish. There are those books where the author articulates a spiritual journey and I find them fascinating. However, I'm not so fond of those books where the author substitutes a vague sentimentality instead of finding words to describe something meaningful. A paragraph ending in "The dignity of the landscape infused our minds like a symphony; I heard another music in those days." is fine...a pretty, poetic picture. However, when these types of paragraphs occur every few pages throughout a 341 page book, when "the landscape spoke to me so directly that I no longer seemed to be made of ice" is succeeded by "It's as though God has given me a gift, once in my life, to step off the planet for two months and listen to a different music," it becomes tiresome. By the end, I found that my mind would skim these paragraphs rather than savor them.

It's not a perfect book. However, Ms. Wheeler writes well and does make the continent come alive. There are so few contemporary books about travels in the Antarctic, and even fewer written from a woman's perspective, that I would recommend this one. ( )
8 vote TadAD | Sep 6, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
To Mark Collins, finally.
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375753389, Paperback)

When explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Robert Falcon Scott all set off to Antarctica in the early years of the 20th century, the polar regions were among the last truly unexplored areas of the world--and arguably the least hospitable. Scott lost his life, pinned down in a howling blizzard only 11 miles from his supply depot; Shackleton lost his ship, crushed in the ice. Even those who survived the icy wastes did so only with enormous effort. And yet, there is something about Antarctica that beckons people; eighty years after Shackleton's voyage, Sara Wheeler answered the call, leaving her comfortable home for "the Great White." Terra Incognita is the result of her sojourn in that legendary land.

In addition to chronicling her own encounters with the people and the place, Wheeler brings the past alive as well, through vivid stories about the heroes of polar exploration: Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and others who practically become secondary characters in Wheeler's account. But it is her interactions with the living people who make up the community--scientists, drifters, and dreamers who have settled this forbidding landscape--that make Terra Incognita a rare and worthy book.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:25 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ever since the time of Captain Cook, Antarctica has captured the imagination of countless explorers who set off against great odds in search of riches and honor, for science or a better world. Sara Wheeler weaves together her own experiences on the ice with the grueling adventures of Antarctica's most mythic figures - the Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who beat his rival to the Pole by twenty-nine days; Ernest Shackleton, whose men lived on seal and penguin blubber for three months when their ship was pierced by an iceberg; Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who famously braved the polar winter to hunt down rare penguin eggs that were ignored and eventually lost back home; Robert Falcon Scott, whose heroic example inspired countless young men to sacrifice themselves in the First World War.Accounts of these epic expeditions alternate with Sara Wheeler's own adventures in Antarctica, where a motley crew of scientists, drifters and dreamers search for bacterial traces that might hold the key to life on Mars, harass penguins and seek to measure this still largely impenetrable land.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
4 avail.
27 wanted
2 pay1 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.01)
0.5
1
1.5
2 4
2.5 1
3 7
3.5 3
4 23
4.5 5
5 16

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 91,670,032 books! | Top bar: Always visible