Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica
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It is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth, an icy desert of unearthly beauty and stubborn impenetrability. For centuries, Antarctica has captured the imagination of our greatest scientists and explorers, lingering in the spirit long after their return. Shackleton called it "the last great journey"; for Apsley Cherry-Garrard it was the worst journey in the world.
This is a book about the call of the wild and the response of the spirit to a country that exists perhaps most vividly in the mind. Sara Wheeler spent seven months in Antarctica, living with its scientists and dreamers. No book is more true to the spirit of that continent--beguiling, enchanted and vast beyond the furthest reaches of our imagination. Chosen by Beryl Bainbridge and John Major as one of the best books of the year, recommended by the editors of Entertainment Weekly and the Chicago Tribune, one of the Seattle Times's top ten travel books of the year, Terra Incognita is a classic of polar literature.
snort of a seal coming through the grease ice which had formed over the dive holes. It was between a gurgle and a squeal, and when the female seals flopped out, they were so fat they could hardly move. By mid-October there were many seals, especially around Big Razorback and Hutton Cliffs. The temperature in those days might swing between ten above and ten below in twelve hours, and from Wooville we began to see mist rising from open water to the north. Hillocks of snow grew on the sea ice
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‘Is she pretty?’ one asked. ‘I’ve been here so long I’ve forgotten what pretty is,’ replied the other. CHAPTER FIVE The Naked Soul of Man On passing our winter quarters at Cape Royds we all turned out to give three cheers, and to take a last look at the place where, in spite of discomforts and hardships, we had spent so many happy days. We watched the little hut, which had been our home for a year that must always live in our memories, fade away in the distance with feelings almost of
unknown land – or at least, they didn’t want to be left out. Doris Lessing wrote that to non-Europeans thinking about the Antarctic in the decades before the First World War, ‘there was little Europe, strutting and bossing up there in its little corner, like a pack of schoolboys fighting over a cake.’ Just before the Second World War, Hitler decided that Antarctica too was to be part of the great Nazi empire. He ordered several thousand steel-barbed swastikas, loaded them on to planes, put the
best’, he concluded, ‘was tearing up the programme and dropping the bits on people’s heads.’ ∗ At sixty-seven degrees south and sixty-eight degrees west, Rothera Point sits at the entrance of Ryder Bay, in the south east of Adelaide Island and about one third of the way down the Antarctic Peninsula. Adelaide Island was discovered and charted by John Biscoe as he weaved in and out of the archipelago alongside the peninsula. On St Valentine’s Day 1832, he named it after Queen Adelaide of