10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2009
A quick check of my library reveals I have fifteen books on Antarctica. So here is another one to add to that pile. The big question is: "Is this book just an impressive collection of images by two of the greatest wildlife photographers?"
Well, there is no doubt that it is packed with superb images, but this book carries a deeper message. When Jonathan and Angela Scott first travelled to Antarctica in the early 1990s they could easily see the pack ice from their expedition ship. When they visited last year, the only way they could get up close to the ice was to join the passengers on a Russian icebreaker. During that same time the number of cruise ships visiting Antarctica has more than doubled. There is no doubt that people are keener than ever to get to the region, and partly that may be because they simply don't think things will be as good in the future. This book, will also add to that desire to visit.
The book is full of great images of penguins, albatrosses, seals and whales and awe-inspiring icebergs with twenty shades of white. Each chapter looks at a different zone within Antarctica, extending out to the Falklands and South Georgia, and off course the open seas of the Southern Ocean. I particularly enjoyed reading the chapter on the travels of Ernest Shackleton, who never reached the South Pole, but whose exploration of the region advanced our knowledge so much in the early 1900s. The book also looks at the achievements of other early explorers like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott and Douglas Mawson. The authors have also explored widely within Antarctica and have even visited it during the southern winter to find Emperor Penguins nesting.
This is a great book, but it comes with a dilemma. As the authors point out, global warming is causing the break-up of the ice around Antarctica. As we all know, air travel adds to that warming and this book will create a greater desire for more people visit the area. People have questioned whether they should boycott tours to Antarctica. My message is simple. Go there once in your lifetime. But in the meantime turn down your thermostat, switch off unnecessary lights, and don't make journeys in your car when you can take public transport. You'll reduce your carbon emissions over five years by much more than you will create by going to Antarctica. And if you can't face the journey, this book will take you there at a fraction of the price.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2010
I really liked this book. After reading about five volumes on Antarctic explorers, I decided to buy a book that would allow me to (a) get a visual feel for Antarctica; (b) learn some general knowledge about this frozen continent. In both these respects the Scotts succeed admirably.
The husband-and-wife team of Jonathan and Angela Scott (both award-winning wildlife photographers) have combined three distinct skills in this volume: research; photography and drawing. Yes, they have actually taken the trouble to do their own illustrations. And not only is the quality of the sketches good, but they have not taken the easy way out: all the drawings are done by stippling ... a technique which requires real patience to get right.
The main topics covered are: the discovery of Antarctica; the heroic age of Antarctic exploration; the lives of native creatures (land, sea and air); conservation; and the continent's future both as an unclaimed territory and a bellwether of climate change. I would say that not all of the content was intriguing (I think I skipped the chapter on the Falkland Islands). But what really distinguishes this book is the sense of wonder at the natural world: indeed, the conviction that Antarctica is something to be marvelled at simply permeates every page. Thus it is the strength of the authors' fascination with this continent that really pulls you into their narrative. It's really saying something that this one quality might trump photography this good and research this thorough.