The surest mark of that change is the fact that Gretchen Legler's book, On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, was chosen as the best book of environmental creative writing published in 2005-2006 by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. On the Ice is the story of what it means to find home, and heart, in the frozen place at the bottom of the world. And finally, there is the Pole, a "sacred destination," she says, not only for explorers but scientists and, yes, artists and writers, who find it the perfect place to look down into the mysteries at the earth's heart and up, into the mysteries of the universe, "the very farthest edge of darkness." On the Ice is a luminous study of a remarkable place, a place that is so sublime as to almost defy human description. And so the book is also about the men and women who live there, about the scientists, support staff, builders, workers, engineers, electricians, cooks, communications technicians--all the people it takes to make a home in an inhospitable place. But as a book about place, a chronicle of life at the bottom of the world, and an intensely honest record of a spiritual journey, On the Ice is the most richly illuminating of a
The woman was supposed to go to McMurdo Station to give us an account of what life is like living and working on Antarctica. She got paid to take a vacation, study her personal emotional troubles and put them down on paper for all of us to contemplate, initiate a same sex affair while on station and then take the time to badmouth the early explorers of Antarctica.
Its a ripe topic for a journalist to review and write about. The "story" as it is, hops from place to place with little sense of time and place. This could have been a great scientific look at life in Antarctica, with details about the tools, tasks and experiments. This could have been a great look at the day-to-day life of the people and places that make Antarctica tick. I can't say I know there is that much here as the population is small, however the individual stories and details could have kept it interesting. There's room here to get fairly detailed into the lives and times of how we got from a completely barren land to a barren land. Lastly, this could have been a story of one woman's introspective look at her own life in the context of the isolation of Antarctica and her quest to open her heart to love again. Her writing on this topic is dry. History is actually weaved into the story fairly well. She weaved together the history and the science or day-to-day life fairly nicely. We go fairly quickly from meeting to tokens of affection to blind love, with little explanation/details about how we really got there. I feel there is a context that is missing. I don't need the gory details, but some context would be nice. I just really feel that there is a deep, deep story here and its highly personal. Too flowery in my opinion, but still detailed enough to get a feeling.
By the end, though, I think I wanted the book to have swung more in one direction or the other: to be more focused on those little Antarctica-specific things, bringing them to light for those of us who don't expect to ever go that far south (too effing cold), or to hone in more closely on the personal and explore those elements in more depth.
I bought this book because it was just about the only one that came up when I searched for books on the hydroponic greenhouse at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. There's not much mention of the McMurdo hydroponic greenhouse, which is a shame (for a keen gardener), but if you've ever wanted to know what it would be like to spend some time in Antarctica then this is definitely a book you should read.
I love that it is so personal and so deeply-felt, and at the same time so outward-looking. Gretchen Legler explores so much in this relatively little book, and she does so absolutely honestly--there's her own personal family history, her heart, her fears and dreams and the way she falls in love with one of the other McMurdo residents, Ruth, during their time "on the ice." And there's also science and personalities, and art, and beauty and history.
The parts before sound too much like "boo hoo, poor me," and the parts afterwards are not convincing. I mostly felt like she didn't know what to write about the whole experience, so we just get snippets here and there that are not cohesive, which is too bad, because those passages she gets right are incredible.