The Big Thaw: Adventures in the Vanishing Arctic


Winner of the Canadian Science Writers' Association's Science in Society Book Award
Banff Mountain Book Award Finalist
The City of Edmonton Book Prize Finalist
Shortlisted for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction

Climate change's effects are reshaping the Arctic profoundly. Landscapes are being radically transformed, animal habitats are disappearing, and natural ...

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Winner of the Canadian Science Writers' Association's Science in Society Book Award
Banff Mountain Book Award Finalist
The City of Edmonton Book Prize Finalist
Shortlisted for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction

Climate change's effects are reshaping the Arctic profoundly. Landscapes are being radically transformed, animal habitats are disappearing, and natural resources are being revealed to an energy-starved world. Veteran Arctic journalist Ed Struzik took eleven trips throughout the north to document this rapidly changing land, gaining unprecedented access to scientific expeditions, native communities and security and sovereignty experts.

The product of those trips, The Big Thaw is the only book that looks at global warming's wide-ranging impact on the Arctic. Struzik goes into the field with the world's leading polar bear scientist, skis on melting glaciers with glaciologists, travels the Northwest Passage on an aging icebreaker and stalks a carnivorous rogue walrus with an Inuit hunter. His journeys bring him up close to some of the world's most unique animals, from the iconic polar bear to the mysterious narwhal.

Struzik melds the vivid stories of his experiences with fascinating explorations of the Arctic's past -- from the alligators and giant tortoises that inhabited the north 55 million years ago, to the 19th century explorers who died searching for the Open Polar Sea -- and its possible future as the center of international struggle, underground smuggling and ecological disaster.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Big Thaw

"Struzik is the real deal. He's a manly man of the old-fashioned sort, equally adept with a kayak paddle, a rifle, a compass, a camera, a laptop and fuelled in part by a conviction that how we perceive and treat Canada's northern regions - what degree of stewardship and respect we demonstrate toward Arctic people, critters, the environment, the works - speaks to a core definition of what kind of nation we are. All these attributes inform Struzik's latest and perhaps most important book. Struzik brings the threat of global warming home with first-person impact. This eye-opening travelogue comes with just enough scientific and policy background for adequate context. A book of deep import to the country."
—Dan Smith, Toronto Star

"This book will take you on one adventure after another. It will also bring you intimate encounters with some of the coolest creatures on the planet. The book's biggest reveal is that the radical changes affecting the far north are no longer just an Arctic concern, but rather a global crisis. The Big Thaw is a truly eye-opening tale. The wide-ranging effects of climate change in the Arctic expressed by this gifted writer and modern-day explorer are a mustread for everybody."
—Julia Bird,

"Struzik['s] thoughtful reportage offers readers an arresting portrait of how quickly the northern landscape, including every ecological nook and cranberry bog that humans and other species inhabit, is being transformed."
—Margo McCaffrey, Canadian Geographic

"A good place to start when trying to understand how climate change is affecting life in the North, and Canadian responsibilities and sovereignty there. Struzik has shared the quotidian demands of deep-sea research aboard an icebreaker, risked his life with scientists and aboriginal hunters on unstable floes and glaciers, intruded on the domain of polar bears and grizzlies, and fed his share of mosquitoes. And he can write."
—Erling Friis-Baastad, The Globe and Mail

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470932162
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

ED STRUZIK IS A NATURALIST-TURNED-JOURNALIST who has spent the better part of the past 30 years focusing on the Arctic. His travels by foot, ski, dog team, canoe, kayak, icebreaker and helicopter have taken him to the remotest corners of the polar world. Struzik is the author of two previous books and is a prolific magazine writer. His articles and photographs have appeared in dozens of magazines around the world, including Canadian Geographic, Equinox, Yale Environment 360, International Wildlife, Geo (Russia), Explore Magazine, Nature Canada, Report on Business Magazine and Great Decisions.

A recipient of more than 30 awards for his writing, Struzik was nominated for the Grantham Prize for Excellence in reporting on the Environment, and has received multiple national magazine and national newspaper awards, eight Canadian Science Writers' Association awards, the Knight Science fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Southam Fellowship at the University of Toronto and the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. Struzik is also a multiple Citation of Merit recipient of the Roland Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and a recipient of the Sir Sandford Fleming Medal, awarded by the Royal Canadian Institute, Canada's oldest scientific society, for outstanding contribution to the understanding of science in Canada.

Ed Struzik lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with his wife and two children.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Nanuq: In the Tracks of the Great Wanderer (Southern Beaufort Sea) 11

Chapter 2 The Lost World (Brintnell Glacier, Northwest Territories) 37

Chapter 3 Changing Landscapes (Kluane National Park, Yukon) 59

Chapter 4 In Northern Mists (Aboard the Louis St. Laurent) 81

Chapter 5 Arctic Outbreak (Repulse Bay, Nunavut) 111

Chapter 6 Waking the Dead (Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories) 139

Chapter 7 IQ (Off the Coast of Northwestern Hudson Bay) 159

Chapter 8 Caribou Crash (Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island) 183

Chapter 9 Rich Squirrel, Poor Squirrel (Mile 1004 Alaska Highway, Yukon) 205

Chapter 10 The Coldest War (Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre, Halifax) 221

Epilogue 247

Acknowledgments 259

Index 263

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