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A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the…

A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice (2018)

by William E. Glassley

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Took the chance to take this one on a trip to Iceland, and ended up reading it on the plane home, during which flight I happened to look out the window to find completely clear skies looking down over the Greenland ice sheet and then the glaciers and fjords of the west coast, to the south of where Glassley was studying in the expeditions covered by this book. An awfully nice complement to the text, I found! There's some pretty complicated geological debating in here, but generally it's just a very well done account of study and scenery in Greenland, which makes for absorbing reading. ( )
  JBD1 | Apr 5, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This review is dedicated to Charles, aka Chip, who generously befriended me in HS a handful of decades ago. We went our separate ways upon graduation; his chosen field was geology. Thus, Chip was much in my mind as I began to read geologist William E. Glassley's "A Wilder Time." Glassley and two colleagues/friends explore the rock formations of Greenland, above the Arctic Circle, in hopes of proving that plate tectonics (the floating, if you will, of Earth's crust on its molten core) is more ancient than currently thought. Throughout the journey, Glassley learns as much about himself as he does the rocks. Now, I really wanted to enjoy this book, and in no small measure, I did. Glassley's encounters with a still pristine little corner of our planet, can be evocative and certainly thought-provoking. But those of you who remember Action Figure Librarian will recall one of her rules: with any book, read as many pages as your age; if it hasn't grabbed hold of you by then, put the down and pick up another, as there is too much good stuff out there. Well, I read well more pages than my age, and, with apologies to Chip, "A Wilder Time" did not grab hold of me as other books have. This is no slap at Glassley: from my LT statistics, I've read almost 1400 books, listing a little over 200 of them as my favorites, which is about 15%. I certainly appreciate Mr Glassley's imagination, insight, and power of observation, but I probably should have had Chip nearby to help me with the geologic specifics. ( )
  bks1953 | Mar 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the story of a geologist’s adventures in Greenland and the various discoveries he and his companions made. Because of the setting and circumstances, the main character is nature here, and I have to give the author credit in that I often don’t have a lot of patience with nature description, but he ends up making it interesting and readable. I think it would have helped to read this book near some sort of natural setting...not necessarily in the isolation of greenland, but in a rural place as opposed to New York City, because I found it hard at times to make my mind go where he was. Still, it’s always neat to see someone as in love with his topic as this man is, and this book is a quick and interesting read.
  benruth | Mar 11, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This in amazing work, an homage to field work perhaps second to only Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez. I felt the bounce of the boat and chill of the ice. I too have looked down at the soaring raptor and entered their world.

The paragraphs on the voice of the tide may be my favorite passage ever, by anyone. A zodiac with three geologists is maneuvering to a enter a fjord in the west coast of Greenland to study a vein of rock at the edge of a 2 billion year old shear zone, where tectonic plates mashed, an ocean disappeared, squeezed out of existence into the earth's crust. The mountain range created has since been eroded to its very roots that are now emerging from Greenland's melting ice. There is an island at the head of the fjord with a channel at either side to open water. They are skimming along the sea when they run headlong into the ebb tide bore and are nearly tossed from the boat:

"Kai and I sit attenatively, hands holding the side ropes, tensely aware that things are not really under control, but relieved that the small boat is stable. John skillfully works the outboard, maneuvering cautiously through the current. We look ahead, watching the turbulent water as though searching for something but not having a clue what it might be we are looking for.

Then, as though emerging from behind a curtain, a vaguely dangerous presence asserts itself. There is no doubt it has been there all the time, but the more immediate need to keep from being thrown into the water was the only thing we thought about. Now, in a more relaxed state, perception expands and we sense a threat.

The sound of loud thunder shakes us so we look to the skies, searching for thunderheads, but we see none. The sky is mainly blue, with cotton puffs of clouds lightly sprinkled about. But the sound is pervasive, reverberating all around us, and does not stop, a deep-throated pounding rumble.

Our Zodiac is made of inflated rubber pontoons; they form the pointed bow and the sides. The other inflated cross tubes span the inside for strengthening, but they also serve as benches. The floor is a rubberized fabric over which thin boards are wedged to give stability and rigidity. It is up through the flooring that the thunder booms.

We quickly realize that the sound must be coming from huge boulders propelled by the rushing tide, tumbling over the hard rock walls and bottom of the fjord, sculpting out of the bedrock of gneisses and schists a submerged secret landscape. Minute after minute, the pounding rumble echoes up through the water, through our little boat, and into the cool air. We look at one another and at the rushing water, listen to the sounds, and hunker down a little more. John revs the engine a bit, and we make our way closer to shore. Carefully, we cruise along about a stone' throw out."

The voice of the tide. ( )
1 vote kcshankd | Mar 7, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley is a very highly recommended combination of nature writing at its finest with the recording of geological discoveries and observations.

"Geology is not generally considered an enterprise rich with drama." ( pg. 60)
While perhaps this observation is true, there was a richness and drama of a sort in this account of the time William E. Glassley and his Danish colleagues, Kai Sørensen and John Korstgård, spent on six expeditions to Greenland, a place that truly defines the word "wilderness." The geologists went there to sample, photograph, and measure any rock formations that would provide evidence of the terrain's history and the tectonic movements. They wanted to find out how deeply the rocks had been buried, how hot they had been, and when the deformation of them occurred; and they wanted to find the place where that marked the point of collision between two continents.

While Glassley does discuss some of the amazing geological discoveries and observations he and his colleagues made, he is also poetic in his descriptions and observations of Greenland, including the overwhelming silence and the natural environment there. The scientific focus may have been the geology, but Glassley also shares his keen observations of the nature around him - the huge bumblebees, the small arctic flowers, the lichen, the arctic foxes, ptarmigan, herring, an encounter with a falcon, and an almost magical mirage.

The narrative is divided into three parts, Fractionation, Consolidation, and Emergence, each of which describes the sensory experiences that shifted his perception. The first part, Fractionation, documents the way his expectations about Greenland had been altered. Consolidation marks his coming to terms with the reality that "ignorance is an integral part of being aware." The final section, Emergence, covers what he feels, based on epiphanies he had in Greenland, we can and cannot know of the world. The book contains a glossary for those unfamiliar with geological terms. (As a secret geology geek, I was transfixed by the scientific observations of the expedition that Glassley chose to share. I desperately wanted pictures.)

A Wilder Time is a celebration of wilderness, written in poetic prose that can be appreciated by anyone who enjoys good nature writing. It is also a call to save the wilderness areas we have left.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bellevue Literary Press.
http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2018/03/a-wilder-time.html ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 1, 2018 |
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Greenland, one of the last truly wild places, contains a treasure trove of information on Earth's early history embedded in its pristine landscape. Over numerous seasons, William E. Glassley and two fellow geologists traveled there to collect samples and observe rock formations for evidence to prove a contested theory that plate tectonics, the movement of Earth's crust over its molten core, is a much more ancient process than some believed. As their research drove the scientists ever farther into regions barely explored by humans for millennia--if ever--Glassley encountered wondrous creatures and natural phenomena that gave him unexpected insight into the origins of myth, the virtues and boundaries of science, and the importance of seeking the wilderness within. An invitation to experience a breathtaking place and the fascinating science behind its creation, A Wilder Time is nature writing at its best.… (more)

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