David Day, born in 1949, is an Australian historian and author. Day has written widely on Australian history and the history of the Second World War. Among his many books are Menzies and Churchill at War and a two volume study of Anglo-Australian relations during the Second World War. His prize-winning history of Australia, Claiming a Continent, won the prestigious non-fiction prize in the 1998 South Australian Festival Awards for Literature. An earlier book, Smugglers and Sailors, was shortlisted by the Fellowship of Australian Writers for its Book of the Year Award. John Curtin- A Life was shortlisted for the 2000 NSW Premier's Literary Awards' Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction.
When was the last time you read a biography of a continent? Day (research associate, La Trobe Univ.; Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others) gives readers the opportunity with his dense and thorough history of the continent. Organized chronologically, chapters cover two to 60 years and have catchy subtitles like "Die Like Gentlemen," "Who Shall Own the Antarctic?," and "This Bloody Flag-Raising Business." Day opens his opus with James Cook in the 1770s, circling Antarctica but never sighting the continent itself. From there, it is game on with various places in addition to Great Britain-Spain, France, Norway, Russia, America, etc.-dodging icebergs, profiting from the indiscriminate killing of seals and whales, charting coastlines, and claiming Antarctica for themselves. Day introduces all the major (and minor) Antarctic expeditions and discusses the historical variety of theories regarding polar conditions. Most of his sources are the expedition documents that are the mainstay of Antarctic history. Of note is his inclusion of a 2012 translation of Shirase Nobu's account of a Japanese expedition of 1910-12. Day closes with a look at current issues regarding the continent, including international treaties, resource extraction, tourism, and scientific research. VERDICT Those seeking a single scholarly history of Antarctica will be well served by Day's offer, but it will require serious commitment from general readers. (Illustrations not seen.)-Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.