Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica Paperback – 4 Sep 1997
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"Antarctica could hope for no better chronicler: spirited, humorous and highly intelligent, she is also a writer of rare talent" (Observer)
"Penetrating, vivacious and often amusing, Wheeler's record has a sharp authenticity" (The Times)
"She writes with a consistent wry wit... she never lacks empathy, compassion or generosity for people whose values, background and gender were the polar opposite of hers...What she has done could not be done better" (Independent)
"Her book is an impressive achievement, one genuinely brushed by the ghosts of the past" (Beryl Bainbridge Literary Review)
"Terra Incognita deserves to be a bestseller...a wonderful book and terrific corrective to the polar bulldust periodically emitted by Sir Ralph Wotsisname and others of his ilk" (Daily Telegraph)
Sara Wheeler was the first woman selected by the American government to be the "Writer in Residence at the US South Pole Station". She spent six weeks at the pole. In this book she reveals how people live on the bases and how the landscape affects them.See all Product description
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The result is enormously interesting and entertaining. Her writing is a pleasure to read, whether dealing with historical background material, describing childish horse-play and lavatorial school-boy pranks [mostly perpetrated by the British, sadly], rhapsodising over the Antarctic landscape or reflecting on her own inner landscape of fear, depression and faith.
Her style is succinct and humorous when describing life in the bases and in the field, and close to elegiac when treating with the landscape and her own thoughts and feelings about it all. It's clear that Antarctica is spectacular in the extreme. Sara Wheeler has described it without becoming carried away or over-blown but has nevertheless given us a picture lacking nothing in colour, detail and texture.
There is a large library of books on Antarctic exploration. I have quite a number myself, including "South With Scott" by Teddy Evans, signed by the author. Sara Wheeler's book is eminently worthy of taking its place amongst those of Evans, Wilson, Shackleton and Cherry Garrard.
Sara Wheeler is not an explorer or a scientist or an obsessive. She has not written a book describing the events in the moments of the creation of a myth or the miseries endured whilst accomplishing some heroic but essentially meaningless quest [what she refers to as the how-dead-can-you-get tendency]. She has given us a book by an engaging, percipient, thoughtful lay person who describes, for those of us who are entranced but will never go there, what Antarctica is like.
Really really should be read together with Cherry-Garrard's 'Worst Journey in the World'
I've never been to Antarctica, but I could see it plain as day in the book. The visual metaphors used by Sarah Wheeler are stunning.
It's not the quickest book in the world to read, but well worth the effort.
I've now added the Antarctic to my bucket list.