Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica Paperback – April, 2005
Elsevier Sales & Deals
Save up to 50% on textbooks, study guides & resources for your medical specialty.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"It took a full century and the building of centrally heated infrastructure for the island at the bottom of the world to produce something like a minor classic. Its author was a young American writer and itinerant contract worker named Nicholas Johnson, whose memoir Big Dead Place upon publication superseded a century’s worth of self-serving ice-beard memoirs and press-junket hackery." - Alternet
Top Customer Reviews
It's a fantastic book -- very illustrative of how life really goes on on a distant research base, once you get beyond romantic notions of exploration of the wild frontiers. (Like many geek kids, I spent my childhood dreaming of space exploration, and Antarctica is the nearest thing you can get to that right now.) A bonus: it's hilarious, too.
Unfortunately it's far from all good -- there's story after story of moronic bureaucratic edicts emailed from comparatively-sub-tropical Denver, Colorado, ass-covering emails from management on a massive scale, and injuries and asbestos exposures covered up to avoid spoiling 'metrics'.
If you want to get a good idea of what the reality of life exploring the wild frontiers on behalf of the US government is like, this book is an eye-opener. Here's hoping they work out some way to trim some of the bureaucratic fat before that lunar base George Bush keeps talking about is set up...
Since Raytheon has taken over as contractor, it's been one laugh after another. HR isn't about helping employees, it's about sticking to the corporate policy with a velvet hammer.
It'll be a fine day when the last Rathioyd leaves Antarcitca, but like the old song by The Who, it'll be "...meet the new boss, just the same as the old boss..."
Having met and known a few Antarctic treaty signatories, I'm sure they're doing a slow spin in their graves.
I can verify at least 1/2 of the book's events are definitely true (saw it), 30% are very likely true (saw immediate evidence), 15% are probably true (saw evidence of evidence) and only about 5% are beyond my knowledge.
A clear example proving high levels of eductation do not necessarily lead to utopian existence.
Having disparaged the place, it is amazing how many people become addicted to the place including the book's author and myself.
The book is a personal narrative of a man living and working in Antarctica for a year and, while doing so, covers the history of Antarctic exploration. it does a wonderful job of this. The appropriate historical references or stories appear as they are relevant to the author's experiences. This is a difficult thing to accomplish and I applaud him for that.
It also tells the mundane aspects of working in modern day Antarctica, which is much different that I, and probably you, have imagined. The author is essentially a garbage man, but garbage in the Antarctic is very different and sometimes dangerous. It covers life in the isolation, which is not as isolated any more, and living in close contact with a small number of people. It also covers the abuses dealt to the workers by a powerful, uncaring company ethic.
The most interesting (?) and unusual part of the book is the incredibly vulgar, graphic and cuss-laden language. If you are offended by such things, keep away! I have never read anything like this but perhaps I am more cloistered than I thought. It does lend the narrative an air of authenticity and immediacy that would otherwise be lacking. Real people under these circumstances probably do communicate this way.
So, why a four star rating instead of five. I thought it went on a little too long. I'd give it 4.5 if that were an option
On the bounds of journalism, not quite Gonzo, not quite straight reportage, the author manages to weave enough Antarctic lore, daily observation, and well-researched history into the narrative, so that the reader is ever mindful of the locale. This alone is a feat of work, for at times one would swear from the corporate shenanigans at the Bottom of the World that this was written as a script for the movie version of "The Office," and rejected for being too real.
The end result--as is the case with most accounts of human bureaucracy in a sublimely inappropriate venue--is hilarity. Think of it as a Monty Python sketch on a continental scale, funded by the American government, subcontracted to an arms manufacturer, and played by a diverse cast of world citizens who can never escape the moral of the story: that things just aren't fair.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was hilarious. Also a searing critique of bureaucracy and government contracting.Published 8 hours ago by Sonya Mann
I really enjoyed reading this book. It's full of tangents and tales that loop back around and is a good commentary on the absurdities that arise when entrenched, old organizations... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mark Rushing
I really enjoy the writing style of Nicolas Johnson, as well as his point of view. However, there is only so much one can read about the tedium of living inside a bureaucratic ice... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Brian S Vittenson
To all the Romantics out there who think of voids (the sea, space, polar regions) in poetic, flowering terms... This is a fine antidote, and a funny one.Published 8 months ago by B. Chapman
As someone who hopes to get to Antarctica as a grantee of the NSF, I found this book enlightening, sobering, at times enraging, smart, and really, really funny. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Clea Waite
Why is Antarctica filled with welder a, IT guys, garbage men, and dish washers? Because it serves the national interest to have a permanent base in Antarctica. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adam R. Moore
A great book from the late Nick Johnson, it reveals the world of the people who do the blue collar work at the south pole... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Robin Pleak
An interesting sometimes biting, sometimes humorous, sometimes rant-like commentary on the ups and downs and his organizational puzzlements of life as an operations support worker... Read morePublished on August 23, 2014 by I'm not Rappaport