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Slicing the Silence

From Scott and Shackleton to sled dogs and penguins, stories of Antarctica seize our imagination. In December 2002, environmental historian Tom Griffiths set sail with the Australian Antarctic Division to deliver the new team of winterers. In this beautifully written book, Griffiths reflects on the history of human experiences in Antarctica, taking the reader on a journey of discovery, exploration, and adventure in an unforgettable land.He weaves together meditations on shipboard life during his three-week voyage with fascinating forays into the history and nature of Antarctica. He brings alive the great age of sail in the initiation of travellers to the great winds of the "roaring forties." No continent is more ruled by wind, and Griffiths explains why Antarctica is a barometer of global climatic health. He charts the race to the South Pole, from its inception as part of the drive to map Earth's magnetism, to the reasons for Robert Scott's tragic death. He also offers vivid descriptions of life in Antarctica, such as the experience of a polar night, the importance of food for morale, and coping with solitude.A charming narrative and an informative history, "Slicing the Silence" is an intimate portrait of the last true wilderness.
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About the Author

Tom Griffiths teaches history and the environment at the Australian National University in Canberra and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.


Historian and author Tom Griffiths turns his attention to Antarctica in his latest book. Using his own Antarctic trip as a framing device, he explores the myriad historical, political, geographical, and personal links between Australia and Antarctica. Griffiths is a lucid, sympathetic writer, drawing extensively on both primary sources and the work of other researchers. He combines his interests in environmental and social history to provide a portrait of life in the last great wilderness. His overarching theme is the constant strange allure of this silent, deadly place. Griffiths gives us sketches of all of the expected personalities, from Cook to Scott to Mawson and beyond, but he also gives us the less celebrated ones: doctors, ornithologists, whalers, geologists, cooks and more. We glimpse their personal lives, and share some measure of their tragedies and triumphs. The unrelenting physical nature of Antarctica is a central theme of the book, and Griffiths provides fascinating background on the continent’s climate, geography and long prehistory. Tom Griffiths does a superb job of evoking the past, illuminating the present, and hinting at the future of the other great southern land. A great read for fans of travel writing, historiography, and all things Antarctic. Heath Graham is a secondary teacher and bookseller for A&R Doncaster

As the climate changes and polar ice caps shrink dramatically, author and environmental historian Griffiths provides essential background for understanding how we reached the current state of meltdown...Engrossing and highly satisfying...A fine and informative ecological adventure, Griffiths' history is worth reading and re-reading. Griffiths is an Australian environmental historian who weaves the story of his visit [to Antarctica] supplying a scientific research station with a good deal of history and science. He writes with insight about the past and probable future as seen from the front lines of the global-warming crisis.--George Fetherling"Seven Oaks" (12/12/2007) "Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica" is a many-layered, sophisticated narrative, not only of the Antarctic, but our relationship with it.--Jean McNeil"Globe and Mail" (11/03/2007) In 2002 Griffiths, an environmental historian, accompanied a team of researchers to Antarctica. He writes about the romance of ocean exploration, the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton, but also about how high winds make that continent an indicator of global climate health.--Susan Salter Reynolds"Los Angeles Times Book Review" (09/30/2007) This is an extraordinary book, as notable as that of Griffiths's antipodal fellow traveler Barry Lopez (whose 1986 best seller, "Arctic Dreams," won a National Book Award). Griffiths turns otherwise humdrum shipboard jottings into starting points for inspired ruminations on the meaning of the Antarctic experience. Although he has never ventured into the interior, he seems to have read virtually everything published on the discovery, exploration, and exploitation of the southern continent, along with a host of unpublished diaries and station logs. Best of all, he relates what he has learned in prose that is both thoughtful and luminous...Few of us will ever visit Antarctica, even though cruise ships now bring several tens of thousands of high-rolling tourists to its coasts each year. Readers, I am sure, will come away from this book agreed that fewer is better, because Griffiths makes it clear just how special this land is, and, for all its ruggedness, how fragile. Better to leave Antar

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