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Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins Hardcover – October 15, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619021846
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619021846
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* How would you like to spend a winter at Halley? This was the job offer that led medical doctor and author Francis (True North, 2010) to spend 14 months as the doctor at Halley, a British Antarctic Survey station on an ice shelf deep inside the Antarctic Circle. In this lyrical book, Francis plumbs his fascination with the barren continent, the very blankness of which intrigued him, empty as it is of human history or cultural memory. Not only was the Antarctic solitude calling him, but there was also the lure of penguins—a breeding colony of approximately 60,000 emperor penguins was within snow-machine travel of the survey station. As the Antarctic winter falls and the emperor penguins begin their epic breeding season, the author writes of life in a research station in extreme conditions, 14 people lodged together for duration of the polar night. Woven into the narrative are stories from past Antarctic explorers, most notably the disaster and miraculous escape of the Shackleton expedition, as well as lesser-known biologists and their early notes on emperor penguins and the embryology of their eggs. Francis is an evocative writer; we feel the cold and the dark, revel in the silence, and find kinship with the penguins. He says to the penguins at the end, I couldn’t have done it without you. --Nancy Bent

Review

"It is difficult to read this engaging memoir without a smile on one’s face, such is the author’s enthusiasm for the world’s southernmost continent and its endemic penguin species, the Emperor…Francis’s descriptions of his visits to this spot, where 60,000 Emperors live in a 'great penguin jamboree,' add moments of sheer joy to this mesmerizing and memorable book."—The Economist

"A highly readable, enjoyable account of one man’s year serving as a doctor at Halley Research Station… A keen observer of his surroundings, the author writes vividly of auroras, clouds, stars, sunlight, darkness, ice and snow… A literate, stylish memoir of personal adventure rich in history, geography and science." —Kirkus

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Larry Dennis on December 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This beautifully written book is everything that a travel book should be. There is the personal experience of a long trip to Antarctica and wintering over with thirteen other people, each with his or her own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, each battling emptiness differently. And there is nature - the ice, stars, and penguins. Reading this book I was frequently reminded of Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. The descriptions of the adventures of famous polar explorers, of what they experienced - cold, dark, misery, and sometimes glory - are wonderful.

This book has been shortlisted for the Book of the Year award in Scotland and deservedly so. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Cook on January 7, 2014
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I bought this book on the strength of a review from the Economist. The review didn't rave about the book but portrayed it as an interesting perspective of life by an intelligent author, clarified by the solitude of Antarctica and enhanced by the lives of the emperor penguins who kept the author company through the continent's long and dark winter. Various stories of the Antarctic are woven with the author's own experience in a way that break down the distinction between ;them' and 'us'. Somehow, the contrast of the author's matter-of-fact voice with the extraordinary experiences he describes brought the Antarctic to me. I have read various accounts of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton but this was the first time I understood that these were, in reality, people who had an ordinary side to their lives from which the heroic came. I'd recommend the book to those who are interested. Antarctica is the scene, but life is the play.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CharlesB on July 10, 2014
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The author longs to be the 'zdoc' - the doctor who winters over at the British Halley Antarctic station- and lo and behold gets the job. His explanations of why he wants to do this in the first place are as interesting as his descriptions of what it is like to watch everyone else leave and then hunker down, both physically and psychologically, with the small winter crew as they each do what they do- cooks and mechanics and scientists- through a long Antarctic winter. His descriptions are so evocative that even though this is a place incredibly unlike anything most of us have ever seen, we can get a flavor of the place, the weather, the people, the light, the ice, the dark, the heroic history, and the amazing cycle of life of the Emperor penguins. Okay, sometimes maybe his language might have been just a bit too fanciful for my taste, but I will credit the intensity of the environment for this. I found myself feeling like the author must have- as I realized that the one year cycle of the story was winding down, I did not want it to end. I have read other captivating books on Antarctica, but this one is so personal that it really gives dimension to all the emptiness and silence he describes.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jane Martinson on November 9, 2013
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Empire Antarctica is one of the most interesting books I have read quite some time. The descriptive writing is almost lyrical and allows the reader to see the wonders of all the beautiful landscape and sky. Who would think of "pillow fighting clouds" as a description? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys exploring other worlds.
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By Ekaterina Puffini on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found it a good read and had no trouble finishing it. I didn't find it overwhelmingly good but I have pretty high standards.
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My spouse asked for the book as a gift. She read it almost non-stop and loved it. She learned a lot about things that interest her and was happy with me for getting it. And given the Amazon cloud system, I can download it on our second Kindle as well and read it too.
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