Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places

Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places

2.8 21
by Bill Streever
     
 

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From avalanches to glaciers, from seals to snowflakes, and from Shackleton's expedition to "The Year Without Summer," Bill Streever journeys through history, myth, geography, and ecology in a year-long search for cold--real, icy, 40-below cold. In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet's…  See more details below

Overview

From avalanches to glaciers, from seals to snowflakes, and from Shackleton's expedition to "The Year Without Summer," Bill Streever journeys through history, myth, geography, and ecology in a year-long search for cold--real, icy, 40-below cold. In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet's ancient and not so ancient ice ages; and in October while exploring hibernation habits in animals, from humans to wood frogs to bears.

A scientist whose passion for cold runs red hot, Streever is a wondrous guide: he conjures woolly mammoth carcasses and the ice-age Clovis tribe from melting glaciers, and he evokes blizzards so wild readers may freeze--limb by vicarious limb.

Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
This crisp and bracing little book …is an unusual and welcome addition to the literature of cold weather and the great north…one that moves easily from geography and biology to history, myth and folklore. Mr. Streever's writing style feels original and organic: it is flinty and tough-minded, with just enough humor glowing around the edges to keep you toasty and dry.
—The New York Times
David Laskin
Streever demonstrates an amazing zeal for collecting cold facts. If it hibernates, shivers, glaciates, migrates to the poles, skis, feels compelled to reach Ultima Thule or absolute zero, Streever is hot on its trail. His attention span may be somewhat limited—he prefers skimming along crystalline surfaces to probing gelid depths—but his voice is so engaging and his writing so crisp that I was usually happy to keep him company wherever he zigzagged. Certainly, I was never bored.
—The Washington Post
Mary Roach
I've probably read some of this elsewhere, but Streever explains in a way that makes things stick…He sculptures lucid explanations and fires them with fine writing…Cold is a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels under it. It's impossible to read the book and not fully realize that our planet must be protected.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Cold weather systems the earth needs to thrive is the subject of Streever's well-documented book, using all of the author's expertise from his field trips to the world's most frigid environments. Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, writes of the frostiest experience: "We fail to see cold for what it is: the absence of heat, the slowing of molecular motion, a sensation, a perception, a driving force." Rather than giving the reader a dry, academic lecture on snow, glaciers, wind-chill factors and icebergs, he delivers a poetic, anecdotal narrative complete with polar expeditions, Ice Age mysteries, igloos, permafrost and hailstorms. Two of the most fascinating segments are the arduous task of scientific reconstruction of past climates and the magical navigation of migratory birds to warmer lands. This is a wonderful collection of one man's first-rate observations and commentary about the history and importance of cold to the earth and its occupants. (July)

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Library Journal

Open this book to any page and be treated to a tidbit about the cold, its effects on animals, on history, on the world. Do frogs and caterpillars actually freeze solid and then revive in spring? Have you ever heard of the School Children's Blizzard that froze cattle standing in place? What is the difference between hypothermia and frostbite? Biologist Streever explores benign cold, threatening cold, and monstrous/scary cold not only through history and science books but also in person, in Alaska and other frozen spots around the world. The author knows what he is talking about. He has worked in Arctic Alaska and chairs the Science Technical Advisory Panel of the North Slope Science Initiative. This reviewer found Streever's book more consistently enticing than Mariana Gosnell's Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance. Written in a popular, accessible style, Streever's book also includes 34 pages of notes. Recommended for public libraries.
—Betty Galbraith

Kirkus Reviews
An unexpectedly fascinating look into a seemingly banal subject. Alaska-based biologist Streever spent a year documenting the nature and science of cold. "Cold is a part of day-to-day life," he writes, "but we often isolate ourselves from it, hiding in overheated houses and retreating to overheated climates, all without understanding what we so eagerly avoid." With simple prose and a strikingly immediate present tense, the author carves landscapes, scientific processes and neat anthropological factoids out of the ice, a style guaranteed to transport readers into the unfamiliar-indeed, otherworldly-dimensions he describes. Streever, who uses science as a launching point for discussions of some of history's most memorable events, renders complicated biological theories eminently understandable. His treatment of 1815, "The Year without Summer," pieces together the seemingly unrelated events of an Indonesian volcano eruption, the origins of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the founding of the Mormon Church in a passage that will leave readers wholly impressed by the scope of the author's grasp on his subject. There's humor, too, in deftly crafted witticisms that pop up throughout the text: "When one reads past the stoicism and heroics, the history of polar exploration becomes one long accident report mixed with one long obituary"; "Cold, really, is like malaria. If it does not kill you, it will help you lose weight." With aplomb, Streever charts a meandering course of the land around him, providing an enthralling tour through haunting arctic tundra, permafrost tunnels of 40,000-year-old ice and the winter dens of hibernating beasts. A seamless blend of travelogue, history and scientifictreatise. Agent: Elizabeth Wales/Wales Literary Agency
Mary Roach
COLD is a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels underneath it.
New York Times Book Review (cover review)
Mary Roach - New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"COLD is a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels underneath it."
From the Publisher
"COLD is a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels underneath it."—Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review (cover review)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316052467
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
07/22/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
424,907
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Bill Streever chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel in Alaska and serves on many related committees, including a climate change advisory panel. A biologist, he lives with his son in Anchorage, where he hikes, bikes, camps, scuba dives, and cross country skies, as often as the weather allows.

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Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Dr_FeelGood More than 1 year ago
Easy read, but pretty informative and entertaining. Highly recommend it to people who enjoy winter and cold temperatures, obviously. Gives general history of cold events, like chemical air conditioners and info on frozen wooly mammoths, and some basics on winter ecology. As mentioned several times in this book, anyone who is interested in cold-weather life needs to read 'Winter World' by Bernd Heinrich.
MDLAK More than 1 year ago
This book brings the northern climate and its effect on animals, plants, humans and history into the hands of the reader. A comprehensive look into what those of us in the north live with. History, geology, anthropology and storytelling bound together in a most readable and enjoyable story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was poorly organized and repetitive. It needed a more disciplined and demanding editorial hand. It contains lots of facts but has no compelling narrative and only an artificial structure.
TimHanko More than 1 year ago
I almost made it through the preface before I tired of the global warming rant. What utter garbage.
ChickadeeCC More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book. I enjoyed the way the author blended arctic history, natural history and culture. I especially enjoyed when he mentioned how extreme cold affects people, animals, buildings, cars and the like.
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JamJB More than 1 year ago
Filled with arcane information, this lovely, lyrical book takes you all over the world and makes you feel the physical presence of each site. The author seems to know just about everything there is to know about COLD, from the scientific to the anecdotal, and he brings all of his knowledge to bear. He is also willing to share what seems like a lack of compassion or at least a lack of empathy as he tells you of his scientific observations of a friend losing the feeling in her hands...or telling you how he got a London taxi driver to be still. This is the kind of book you can open anywhere, and enjoy what's there. What you remember will be what you bring with you and how his verse relates to your thoughts.
kaycashman More than 1 year ago
Author Bill Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, structured Cold with a chapter for every month starting with July. He opens each with an account of his own experience. Here are a few excerpts from a review of Cold I wrote for Petroleum News: Streever is the science teacher we all want for our children; a guide who introduces them to the natural world, enticing them away from video games, I-Pods and cell phones. Unfortunately, Bill Streever is not a teacher, but as an author who brings alive the magic of planet Earth's past, present and future, he's the next best thing. .... Polar explorers, Streever says in the first chapter, are "great keepers of journals . whose history becomes one long accident report mixed with one long obituary," the details of which he repeatedly shares with us. In the first chapter, which opens 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, with the author taking a five minute plunge into the Beaufort Sea, we learn about Dutch navigator Vitus Bering. In 1741, "several hundred miles southwest" of where Streever is standing ... Bering "lay down in the sand and died of scurvy and exposure, while his men, immobilized by scurvy, cold, and fear, became food for arctic foxes. "Some accounts," Streever writes, "hold that Bering spent his last moments listening to the screams and moans of his dying men." While we are contemplating the horrible deaths of Bering and his men, Streever throws in a geography lesson - the Bering Sea that separates Alaska and Russia, and the island where Bering died, "nestled on the international date line," were both named after him. Turn the page and we discover that frogs, whose northernmost limit is about five hundred miles south of Streever's bathing spot, overwinter in a frozen state, "amphibian popsicles in the mud. Frogsicles," he calls them. .... A lesson-bite in the history of measuring temperature becomes more interesting when you learn that Daniel Fahrenheit's invention of the mercury thermometer was "modified by the likes of Galileo, who used wine instead of mercury." Streever's example of the year following the eruption of Mount Tambora ... in Indonesia in 1815 fixes the destructive nature of volcanic eruptions firmly in a reader's memory. Volcanic dust in earth's atmosphere acts like a translucent shade on a window, blocking the sun's rays, he writes. Decreased warmth from the sun changes wind and current movements in the Northern Hemisphere.... "The laconic farmers of New England" referred to the year simply as "Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.".... The cold and resultant crop failures around the globe . made horses too expensive ... leading to the invention of what would become the bicycle. Mary Shelley "was holed up in Lord Byron's lakeside retreat near Geneva in the summer of 1816." The weather, more than a year after Tamura's eruption, "kept Byron's guests indoors. . He challenged them to come up with ghost stories. Shelley came up with Frankenstein. ... The popular impression of the novel today is based on movies that share only a name and a monster with the book," but Streever tells readers that Shelley's novel "starts with letters from an Arctic explorer," who "spots a dogsled pulling a strange creature, the living thing mysteriously created by Dr. Frankenstein," who dies on the boat. The creature ... "leaps through a cabin window, landing on an ice floe, and drifts off into
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