Extremes: Surviving the World's Harshest Environments

Overview

Humans have a remarkable knack for surviving harsh environments. But how do people really endure the world’s most remote and inhospitable landscapes, where nature still reigns and where the physical geography is raw and unforgiving? In Extremes, renowned geographer and travel writer Nick Middleton puts his body and mind to the test in an attempt to find the answer.

His mission is to learn how to cope with four especially horrendous habitats. Through arctic wasteland, jungle, ...

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2005 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Light Shelfwear. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 260 p. Audience: General/trade. (W7F)

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Overview

Humans have a remarkable knack for surviving harsh environments. But how do people really endure the world’s most remote and inhospitable landscapes, where nature still reigns and where the physical geography is raw and unforgiving? In Extremes, renowned geographer and travel writer Nick Middleton puts his body and mind to the test in an attempt to find the answer.

His mission is to learn how to cope with four especially horrendous habitats. Through arctic wasteland, jungle, desert, and swamp, Nick pits himself against the elements and explains the geographical conditions that conspire to produce the world’s harshest ecologies. He also discovers the various human quirks that people have evolved to make life at the edge bearable.

In northern Greenland, Nick joins a group of Inuits hunting for narwhal, crucial to the group’s survival, on the edge of fragile sea ice, while in the jungle he ventures into Congo’s tropical forest, home of the Biaka pygmies. He joins the annual crossing of the Tenere desert by the women of the Tubu tribe to collect dates and then travels to Papua, one of the least explored places on earth, to find the Kombai people, a remote group of tree house dwellers above the Asmat region’s flood plain.

Extremes is Nick Middleton’s amazing account of four of the most unwelcoming environments on earth. Can he pick up enough tips from the indigenous people of these locations to hack it at the very edge of human existence, or will his mid-latitude sensibilities forever let him down?

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Editorial Reviews

Florence Williams
[Middleton's] best when he loses the camera shtick and lets loose his inner geographer. His academic specialty is deserts, and the section on the Tenere in Niger is his strongest. Here the reader can learn something, as when Middleton explains that the concept of desertification is mainly bunk. Contrary to popular wisdom, he writes, sands are not taking over northern Africa; the region is simply in the throes of seasonal drought cycles to which nomads have adapted delicately.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In his latest quest to discover how people survive in severe climates, Oxford University geographer Middleton visited locations even worse than those in his last book, Going to Extremes. That work took him to Siberia and northeast India; this time, he seeks places without permanent towns, locations where "survival requires a lifestyle completely in tune with Nature's rhythms." Middleton's good-humored, almost na ve attitude makes his often treacherous explorations seem merely fun. He travels to remote, unlivable sites and visits indigenous people who live there happily. In Greenland, where four-fifths of the land is permanently ice-covered, an ice-sheet rescue worker teaches him to dig an emergency shelter within the frozen water. In Congo, Middleton hunts with locals and learns the dual role insects there play, as both pest and foodstuff. In Niger, he treks across sand dunes with Tuba women seeking date palms. Papua brings crocodile hunts and tree-house dwellers. Middleton wouldn't survive more than a few days in any of these places without the kindness of strangers, and their resourcefulness is striking. Unlike many books of its kind, the account doesn't bemoan environmental damage or displaced natives. Rather, it's a lighthearted and entertaining look at places most will never see. Agent, Doreen Montgomery. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Oxford geography don Middleton (Going to Extremes) has done it again, going to the far ends of the earth to experience what most of us could only daydream about-or think of as our worst nightmare. While his first book took him to Siberia, East Africa, northeast India, and coastal South America (in search of the coldest, hottest, wettest, and driest places on Earth), this one finds him in Greenland, the Congo, Niger, and West Papua (for ice, jungle, sand, and swamp). In Greenland, he is with the Inuit hunting seal and narwhal from a kayak. From there he is off to the Congo, trekking in the jungle with pygmies looking for wildlife. In Niger, he crosses the Sahara with a group of strong-willed and able-bodied women of the Tubu tribe, as part of a camel caravan. In the last section (definitely more nightmare than daydream), he is fighting off swarms of Deet-immune mosquitoes in the swamps of New Guinea. An exciting and often amusing account of places inhabited by hardy souls, this is recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312342661
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Middleton has traveled to more than seventy countries. He is the author of several travel books and the 2001 United Kingdom bestseller Going to Extremes. He won the Royal Geographical Society’s Ness Award in 2002, in recognition of his widening the public enthusiasm for geography through travel writing. When he is not traveling or writing, he teaches geography at the University of Oxford, where he is a Fellow of St. Anne’s College.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2008

    Fell Short.

    I picked up this book expecting something like Bear Grylls, however it was a little less than the tough situations that you see on the Discovery Channel. The stories in the book end leaving you still wanting a little closure. If you are looking for an easy read that will take you to some cool places this your book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2006

    Absolutely Fantastic!

    I found this book to be the most interesting I had ever read. It seems, with the turn of a page comes laughter. Middleton's accounts of the people and the landscape are vivid. I felt as if I was actually there in Greenland, feeling the adreniline of the word 'narwahl'. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in traveling and culture. Those reading the book will NOT be disappointed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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