Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole

Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole

4.7 20
by Jerri Nielsen

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"Ice Bound" is the inspiring true story of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the physician with breast cancer stranded at a South Pole research station, whose amazing rescue made headlines around the globe. Set in a remote and desolate yet strikingly beautiful landscape, Nielsen's narrative of her transforming experience is a thrilling adventure. See more details below


"Ice Bound" is the inspiring true story of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the physician with breast cancer stranded at a South Pole research station, whose amazing rescue made headlines around the globe. Set in a remote and desolate yet strikingly beautiful landscape, Nielsen's narrative of her transforming experience is a thrilling adventure.

Editorial Reviews

A fast-paced, engaging book. Nielsen gives a gripping account of life at the South Pole.
Chicago Sun-Times
Intelligent and insightful...Nielsen is adept at capturing the insular world of the "polies" and the mental and physical trials of residing there.
Chicago Tribune
A remarkable book...a fascinating sociological study.
New York Times Book Review
Nielsen is a hero. Ice Bound takes its place among the great Antarctic adventure stories.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nielsen, whose book is a bestseller in print, is not an actress her reading is somewhat awkward and labored. And yet listeners will be glad to feel a sense of personal contact with this extraordinary woman. A physician in her mid-40s, Nielsen decided to serve as the sole medical officer for a year at the South Pole, which meant "wintering over" during the dark months when the pole is physically inaccessible to the outside world. Nielsen's voice remains emotionally uninflected as she describes the beauties of the ice-filled landscape and the delights of working with a wonderfully creative and fun-loving crew of 41 "polies," despite the shortage of medical supplies. Nielsen also refuses to overdramatize her reading when she describes her detection of a lump in her breast, which proved to be cancerous. Listeners will hang on to every word as Nielsen relates how she performed a biopsy and administered chemotherapy to herself. They will also be glad this is unabridged, because every moment she describes, whether of pleasure or pain, is gracefully and unsentimentally limned. Simultaneous release with the Talk Miramax hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 8). (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
To quote KLIATT's May 2001 review of the Brilliance audiobook edition: Temperatures at the South Pole register below zero even in the summer. In the winter, when they plummet as low as -100 degrees, it is so cold that airplanes cannot fly into the camp of American scientists who live there, each for a year at a time. The team of 40 that wintered there in 1999 found themselves strained to the limits of their physical and psychological resources when Dr. Jerri Nielsen, their only medically trained member, developed a hard lump in her breast. As the lump grew and a diagnosis of cancer was confirmed by a doctor in American examining biopsy pictures sent via the Internet, it became clear that she needed specialized treatment if her life was to be saved. An airplane eventually brought chemotherapy drugs and when the first sign of "spring" arrived, the Air National Guard quickly flew in, dropped off her replacement, and whisked her home...the Antarctic adventure... turned into a world-publicized nightmare...Nielsen helps the listener sense her courage, the support of a world community that gathered around her, and the harsh beauty of the Antarctic continent... Category: Biography & Personal Narrative. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Hyperion, Talk Miramax Books, 378p. illus., $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; Minot, ND SOURCE: KLIATT, March 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
Library Journal
It was splashed across every newspaper in 1999 a woman doctor in Antarctica finds a lump in her breast and after performing her own biopsy realizes that she has a particularly aggressive form of cancer. But no planes can land during the long winter months, and she must administer her own chemotherapy. That woman was Nielsen, and this is her story of her battle with cancer and the extreme conditions of the South Pole. Alone and scared, Nielsen describes the feelings that washed over her that long winter. Part adventure story, part journal of self-discovery, her book is written in an easy-flowing narrative voice. She regales us with tales of parties like the one celebrating her 47th birthday and then horrifies us as she recounts how she e-mailed her family when she found the lump. No matter what the passage, Nielsen mesmerizes readers as she carries them along for a ride of a lifetime. Recommended for all libraries. Stephanie Papa, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Law Lib. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In this riveting first-person account, Nielsen describes her work as a doctor and her fight with breast cancer at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. An emergency-room physician in a major hospital, the author was burned out and broken by an abusive husband and bitter divorce. An advertisement for a job in Antarctica caught her attention and soon she was getting her bearings at the South Pole. In the first half of the book, the author does a wonderful job of describing the frozen world under the geodesic dome and the tribal existence of 41 people living on a frozen plateau in complete darkness and total isolation. In the second section, Nielsen describes her realization that she had breast cancer and that she must turn to the outside world for help. Through heart-wrenching e-mails, she plotted a course of action with a doctor in the United States. She taught a team of mechanics, welders, and other Polies to perform a biopsy and give her chemotherapy. When that failed, in a massive global effort, she was evacuated. An easy read with an engrossing story in an unforgiving setting, this is also a story of growth, endurance, teamwork, and survival.-Jane S. Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 4 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x 7.12(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt


Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, October 16, 1999. Today I take my last snowmobile ride in Antarctica -- from the ice-crusted dome where I have lived for eleven months, to the edge of an airfield plowed out of the drifting snow. Normally I could walk the distance in a few minutes, but I am too weak. My best friend, Big John Penney, drives me up the mountain of snow we call Heart Attack Hill to the edge of the flight line. We are bundled in our red parkas and polar boots, extreme-cold-weather gear that weighs nearly twenty pounds. I'm wrapped in so many layers of fleece and down that I can barely move. My hair was long and blond when I arrived at the Pole, but now my head is completely bald, and coddled like an egg in a soft wool hat beneath my hood. I wear goggles and a neck gaiter up to my eyes to keep my skin from freezing. It is nearly sixty degrees below zero.

Big John helps me off the machine and we stand together for a moment, staring into a solid wall of blowing snow. The winds are steady at twenty knots, causing a total whiteout over the station. Incredibly, we can hear the droning engines of a Hercules cargo plane, muffled by the weather but getting louder by the second. It is the first plane to attempt a landing at the South Pole in eight months.

"He'll never make it," says Big John. "He'll have to circle and turn back."

I can't decide if I am frightened or relieved. I am sick and quite possibly dying. There is no doubt that I have to leave here to get treatment for the cancer growing in my breast. I am the only doctor among forty-one scientists and support staff at this U.S. research station, and I've been worrying about what would happen if I became too frail to care for my patients. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people have worked for weeks to organize this extraordinary rescue flight. I feel grateful, and humbled and, at the same time, overwhelmed with grief.

In reporting my predicament, some journalists have described the South Pole as "hell on earth." Others refer to my time here as "an ordeal." They would be surprised to know how beautiful Antarctica has seemed to me, with its waves of ice in a hundred shades of blue and white, its black winter sky, its ecstatic wheel of stars. They would never understand how the lights of the Dome welcomed me from a distance, or how often I danced and sang and laughed here with my friends.

And how I was not afraid.

Here, in this lonely outpost surrounded by the staggering emptiness of the polar plateau, in a world stripped of useless noise and comforts, I found the most perfect home I have ever known. I do not want to leave.

But now as the sound of the engines grows to a roar and shifts in pitch, I strain to take a last look around. I am hoping for an opening in the storm, as much for me as for the pilot. I want to see the ice plain one more time, and lose myself in its empty horizon. But the notion passes, like waking from a dream, and within moments begins to seem unreal.

Excerpted by permission of Hyperion Books. Copyright © 2001 Dr. Jerri Nielsen.

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What People are saying about this

Diane Sawyer
Diane Sawyer, on Larry King Live
It is the most moving, most American, most profoundly inspiring story I have encounterted in so long.

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