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Life at the Bottom: The People of Antarctica…

Life at the Bottom: The People of Antarctica

by John Langone

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Scientists on the make, support crews dreaming of R & R in Chee Chee, Navy Seabees with pride and know-how wedged in between the obscenities: Langone's gritty view of Antarctica is an invigorating excursion into foreign territory--the ice--a last outpost with its own codes and raunchy camaraderie. It is a land of ironies--wingless flies, flightless birds, refrigerators to keep the food from freezing--with 5000-year-old seal carcasses preserved on snow fields. Langone jumps around easily, juxtaposing today's parka-ed stalwarts with the intrepid heroes of the past, quoting extensively from early accounts of frozen fingers and resolution and from recent witnesses dependent on beer and Playboy centerfolds. There's the ""loon platoon""--those who winter over and return; the few women--scientists and secretaries--who become local celebrities and choice dinner companions; ""W-T-F"" (what the fuck), the refrain that puncutates conversations; and scatter-shot humor, essential for morale--macho rituals (""packing ass"" in the snow); incongruous signs (""Fake Fir"" on a Christmas tree), and screwball posters (a penguin, wearing earmuffs and a scarf, captioned: ""If you think you got it tough, try wintering over with an egg on your toes""). Always in the background are the epic adventures of those first stoic explorers: Amundsen, who virtually coasted to the Pole; Scott, who struggled miserably and found a flag already there; and the other venerables, like Shackleton, who trudged along with huskies, wool clothing, and few complaints. From the flight down on ""Agony Airlines"" to that exhilarating moment at the Pole, a top-notch report on the bottom line.
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