Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica [NOOK Book]


Johnson’s savagely funny [book] is a grunt’s-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It’s like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy.”—The Times of London

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Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica

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Johnson’s savagely funny [book] is a grunt’s-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It’s like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy.”—The Times of London

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Editorial Reviews

John Strausbaaugh
Mr. Johnson's writing is so conversational and companionable that it's easy to picture oneself settling in next to him at McMurdo's bar as he reels off humorous stories through the long winter night. Having a guy like him to work with might make the cold and cooped-up craziness sufferable.
 The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
When Johnson went to work for the U.S. Antarctic Program (devoted to scientific research and education in support of the national interest in the Antarctic), he figured he'd find adventure, beauty, penguins and lofty-minded scientists. Instead, he found boredom, alcohol and bureaucracy. As a dishwasher and garbage man at McMurdo Station, Johnson quickly shed his illusions about Antarctica. Since he and his co-workers seldom ventured beyond the station's grim, functional buildings, they spent most of their time finding ways to entertain themselves, drinking beer, bowling and making home movies. The dormlike atmosphere, complete with sexual hijinks and obscene costume parties, sometimes made life there feel like "a cheap knock-off of some original meaty experience." What dangers there were existed mostly in the psychological realm; most people who were there through the winter developed the "Antarctica stare," an unnerving tendency to forget what they were saying mid-sentence and gaze dumbly at the station walls. And if the cold and isolation didn't drive one crazy, the petty hatreds and mindless red tape might. Though occasionally rambling and uneven, this memoir offers an insider's look at a place that few people know anything about and fewer still have ever seen. Photos. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Everyday life in modern Antarctica is not the struggle against the forces of nature that is often portrayed in the stories of the early explorers. Instead, in Johnson's tome, it is filled with the mundane tasks required to keep a community functioning (cooking, cleaning, construction) and to support the U.S. presence on the continent. Johnson, who has worked in Antarctica for several years, most recently on garbage detail, here tells the story of life in the small and isolated McMurdo station. From inane Antarctic personalities and events to frustrating bureaucratic games, Johnson offers readers an unsentimental, sometimes even bitter, view of what it means to work here. While some readers will find the language offensive, this humorous and and often wittily sarcastic account of a place that people tend to romanticize should be read by anyone seriously considering working in Antarctica; it is also the only book available that shows modern Antarctic life and culture from the worker's perspective. As such, it is recommended to larger travel and social science collections.-Sheila Kasperek, Mansfield Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"No one has done more to change the way we understand Antarctica. Nick was unflinching in his critique of bureaucracy and authority in the United States Antarctic Program, but mainly he sought to create a dialogue within and about Antarctica that cut through cliche and hypocrisy in order to describe things as they really are, in all their glory and strangeness." -Progressive Review

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932595994
  • Publisher: Feral House
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 679,269
  • File size: 5 MB

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Frozen realm of mystery 1
Ch. 2 The offshore account and the alien abduction 17
Ch. 3 Little America 43
Ch. 4 The South Pole 77
Ch. 5 The most peaceful spot in this world 103
Ch. 6 The grinder and the projected mayhem index 117
Ch. 7 The ice annex and the medevac 135
Ch. 8 Disaster city 149
Ch. 9 The United States exploring expedition 177
Ch. 10 The Antarctic service awards 193
Ch. 11 Faith in science 217
App. I The ironworker and the Russian bride 238
App. II Asbestos memo 1 248
App. III Asbestos memo 2 250
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013



    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2011

    Book as advertised.

    All in all, a very good book for me because I am interested in this place and I've never seen a book like it about Antarctica. A good film by German director Werner Herzog covers some of the same territory. The author does not give a photo of himself that I could find, and after the first few chapters, I still don't have much of an idea who our narrator is.
    Folks that write for magazines are very clear about what they are trying to get across. There were a few times when I was forced to reread portions to try to figure out what is going on or the point that the narrator was trying to make. The editor should have picked up on this. But if you are interested in this continent you will have to read this book because it is the only one of its kind that I have seen. You will like the attitude of the author and his sense of humor.

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