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The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica Paperback – 17 Mar 1994

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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,616,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By P.Smith on 4 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
Very Enjoyable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Good, but the author isn't big on introspection 1 Jun. 2003
By Scott FS - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A good (not great) read on Antarctica if you are going there. 18 Nov. 2006
By Brian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
41 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Not About Antarctica 1 Oct. 2003
By John C. Brewer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant read 13 Nov. 2008
By R. Fiddler - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Quite a topic 1 Dec. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It would be hard for this book to be uninteresting, covering as it does the natural history and present teeming life, as well as the everyday life of a human community, in this remote area. My only objection is the use of some scientific biology words which may be common enough among scientists but which are curveballs for us lay folk. Otherwise it's a fine read. This really made me picture myself there, and want to visit Antarctica, and appreciate its role in the world environment.
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