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

by Sara Wheeler

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3531030,914 (4)19
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

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

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Joy's review: The author spends almost a year in Antarctica and does most of what is done on the frozen continent. Wheeler has done her research as well and intertwines the history of discovery and exploration with her own experiences. A good armchair visit to Antarctica. ( )
  konastories | Apr 2, 2017 |
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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:28 -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)

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