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The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica [Paperback]

David G Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

17 Mar 1994
Most accounts of Antarctica focus on the ice-cap that covers two thirds of the continent, the setting for the many heroic expeditions to the South Pole. This book is about the other Antarctica - the peninsula where for three months of the year the sun never sets, and where during the summer there is life in profusion, including many billions of tiny krill (of which there are more in one bay than there are stars in the known universe), penguins and other birds, seals, lichens and simple plants. David Campbell spent three summers in Antarctica, and his book is at once a celebration of the panoply of life during the Antarctic summer and a lament for a place that has already been despoiled by human intruders and is under threat of further depredations. Above all, it is a portrait of a land of extraordinary beauty, alienness and fecundity, and of its wildlife.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 297 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade); Reprinted edition edition (17 Mar 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395680824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395680827
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,706,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical writing 4 Feb 2006
By P.Smith
I actually read this whilst on an Antarctic cruise which helped me take in the scientific content which contained a lot of terms that were quite unknown to me.However,this is a beautifully written book: poetic and lyrical, that is easy to read once you accept that there's a lot you are going to want to look up afterwards. It gives you loads of fascinating facts about the animals and flora of this amazing continent plus insights on working there. If only all "informative " books could be written so well!
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but the author isn't big on introspection 1 Jun 2003
By Scott FS - Published on Amazon.com
Since I've visited Antarctica, and enjoyed its haunting, indifferent beauty as well as the spectacular wildlife, I was interested in reading an account of someone who had lived, studied, and conducted research there.
Campbell's strength is writing about the science, the wildlife, the extremes of weather and of living in a difficult place. His weakness is his utter lack of self-analysis. He berates the tourists who come to this place (does he think he owns the Antarctic area himself?), and laments the loss of microscopic and macroscopic life that is lost when the loutish tourist dares step on the fragile landscape, yet he is blissfully unaware of the far greater damage he does to the ecosystem when he powers up the hills to work on the weatherstation, and when he pulls up marine creatures and watches them burst, dying, under his microscope.
I guess anything is fair game when done under the guise of 'science', but woe be to the ordinary person who dares to learn about one of the farthest reaches of the planet.
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not About Antarctica 1 Oct 2003
By John C. Brewer - Published on Amazon.com
This was a disappointing read, mainly because it isn't about Antarctica, but about King George Island. Like writing a book about North America from research conducted on Cuba. Yes, Cuba is part of North America, but... If you want information on Antarctica, look elsewhere. Why he named it "Crystal Desert" is beyond me because there is NOTHING on the ice cap. Secondly, Campbell, who may or may not be a competent biologist, spends far to much time grinding his environmental axe. For some reason, he thinks he and other academicians are the only people with the right to go to Antarctica, making numerous disparaging comments about tourism throughout the text. Moreover, he seems to have a major problem with males - be they human, sperm whale, or elephant seal, espousing traits such as "machismo" and other derogatory human emotions to these animals simply because they are larger than the females. And finally, he spends the entire final third of the book expounding on the horrors of the seal and whale hunts that decimated the populations of these magnificant animals. Unfortunate, definately. But the book is supposed to be about Antarctica - not a treatise on over-sealing and over-whaling by people from another period in time. It does have some good descriptions of Admiralty Bay on King George Island - mainly from a biological perspective, but overall, it was a waste of time.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good (not great) read on Antarctica if you are going there. 18 Nov 2006
By Brian - Published on Amazon.com
There may be a growing body of literature on Antarctica, but let's face it: about 80% of it is about Amundsen, Scott, or Shackleton. That's fine, but if you're reading in preparation for a trip to Antarctica, you want more. Campbell's book is a very readable albeit superficial overview of the wildlife and physical landscape you're likely to encounter. I agree with other reviewers that Campbell comes across as stuck-up, and I do take exception to his disparaging of tourists, since my experience has been that Antarctic tourists tend to be very environmentally respectful. I recommend the book because its insights and information did enhance my enjoyment of Antarctica and the South Shetlands.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read 13 Nov 2008
By R. Fiddler - Published on Amazon.com
The author is both a passionate biologist and a sensitive prose stylist. His paean to Antarctica combines his considerable knowledge about the continent's history and biology with his own direct observation of the place and close study of its creatures. Fully researched, critically observed, beautifully written. If you're interested in Antarctica, or just like nature writing, you need to read this book.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good non-fiction about Antarctica 15 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
There's much to be learned about the most inhopsitable place on the face of our planet and this book is a good source for that. Also recommend Bob Mayer's ETERNITY BASE, a work of fiction centered around Antarctica.
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