From Publishers Weekly
Montaigne (Reeling in Russia), a journalist and travel writer, spent five months tracking penguins through the breeding season on the northwestern Antarctica peninsula with the scientist Bill Fraser, and his book is a bittersweet account of the stark beauty of the continent and the climate change that threatens its delicate ecosystem. Fraser first came to Antarctica in 1974, and his research on the peninsula, one of the fastest-warming places on the planet, with an 11°F winter heat rise in the past 60 years, has made him a pivotal figure in the study of how global warming disrupts not just individual species but creates an ecological cascade. As diminishing sea ice reduces the krill and silver fish that feed the Adélie penguins, who have thrived in this region for thousands of years, they are now dwindling alarmingly; consequently, brown skua birds, predators of the Adélies, are also having trouble breeding, and gentoo penguins, who thrive in warmer conditions, are becoming the dominant species. Montaigne poetically portrays the daunting Antarctic landscape and gives readers an intimate perspective on its rugged, audacious, and charming penguin and human inhabitants.
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Global warming has already come to the Adélie penguins at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. Journalist Montaigne spent five months there working with biologist Bill Fraser and his devoted team of wildlife researchers. Fraser attests that much has changed since he first arrived in the polar region in 1975. Temperatures are up, the area’s glaciers have receded, and the ice shelf covering the nearby Wendell Sea has shrunk considerably. Krill that used to thrive under the blue ice are now harder for Adélie penguins to find. Receding ice has also allowed more predatory seals into the area. Sadly, Fraser has watched numerous penguin colonies established over 500 years ago disappear. In this sympathetic firsthand report, Montaigne describes the lives of both the researchers who brave the harsh weather and the penguins whose habitat is quickly becoming inhospitable to their reproduction. Montaigne’s compelling account is a clear and impassioned call for environmental action before the consequences of global warming turn catastrophic worldwide. --Rick Roche