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Publisher's Summary

A gripping history of the polar continent, from the great discoveries of the 19th century to modern scientific breakthroughs

Antarctica, the ice kingdom hosting the South Pole, looms large in the human imagination. The secrets of this vast frozen desert have long tempted explorers, but its brutal climate and glacial shores notoriously resist human intrusion. Land of Wondrous Cold tells a gripping story of the pioneering 19th-century voyages, when British, French, and American commanders raced to penetrate Antarctica’s glacial rim for unknown lands beyond. These intrepid Victorian explorers - James Ross, Dumont D’Urville, and Charles Wilkes - laid the foundation for our current understanding of Terra Australis Incognita.

Today, the white continent poses new challenges, as scientists race to uncover Earth’s climate history, which is recorded in the south polar ice and ocean floor, and to monitor the increasing instability of the Antarctic ice cap, which threatens to inundate coastal cities worldwide. Interweaving the breakthrough research of the modern Ocean Drilling Program with the dramatic discovery tales of their Victorian forerunners, Gillen D’Arcy Wood describes Antarctica’s role in a planetary drama of plate tectonics, climate change, and species evolution stretching back more than 30 million years. An original, multifaceted portrait of the polar continent emerges, illuminating our profound connection to Antarctica in its past, present, and future incarnations.

A deep-time history of monumental scale, Land of Wondrous Cold brings the remotest of worlds within close reach - an Antarctica vital to both planetary history and human fortunes. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2020 Gillen D’Arcy Wood (P)2020 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"This highly readable book takes a set of 19th-century interrelated exploration voyages to Antarctica and juxtaposes their stories with one of contemporary scientific discovery. By looking at lesser-known expeditions alongside engaging and current scientific elements, Land of Wondrous Cold makes a significant contribution." (Michael Bentley, Durham University)

"Antarctica has long been the weathervane of the planet, and is now the canary in the coal mine of climate change. Switching between the Victorian age of Antarctic discovery - of which far less has been written about than the so-called heroic age of Antarctica - and present scientific discoveries, Land of Wondrous Cold fuses Antarctic past and future in a timely, absorbing work of environmental history." (Jean McNeil, author of Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir)

"Weaving together paleoclimatology, a narrative of nineteenth-century exploration, and modern sensibilities, Land of Wondrous Cold fills a niche for the historically minded reader. Filled with evocative storytelling, this is a good book for a long cruise to Antarctica." (James R. Fleming, Colby College)

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