One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead

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In this unforgettable debut novel Clare Dudman has imaginatively re-created the life of the German scientist Alfred Wegener, whose theory of continental drift—derided by his contemporaries—would eventually revolutionize our perception of the world. Wegener's irresistible urge to discover the unknown takes him from the horrors of World War I's trenches to several lengthy expeditions across the unexplored ice of Greenland, an extraordinary quest that—with the support of a remarkable woman—gives birth to a powerful ...

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In this unforgettable debut novel Clare Dudman has imaginatively re-created the life of the German scientist Alfred Wegener, whose theory of continental drift—derided by his contemporaries—would eventually revolutionize our perception of the world. Wegener's irresistible urge to discover the unknown takes him from the horrors of World War I's trenches to several lengthy expeditions across the unexplored ice of Greenland, an extraordinary quest that—with the support of a remarkable woman—gives birth to a powerful idea worth fighting for. Distinguished by its evocation of the unforgiving beauty of the Arctic, this stunningly written tale of obsession and courage will thrill readers of scientific history and the best adventure writing.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
In 1930, the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener disappeared on an expedition to Greenland; six months later, his body was found, perfectly preserved, beneath the ice. Dudman takes this as the starting point of her novel, a fictional autobiography in which Wegener embodies the scientist as man of action, launching hydrogen-balloon flights, spelunking down frozen crevasses, and racing across glaciers as the ice cracks. Between exploits, he investigates the origins of rain and the craters of the moon, and fends off attacks on his theory of continental drift—dismissed at the time as far-fetched but now widely accepted. As a narrator, Wegener is firmly rooted in his time, almost to a fault; occasionally, one wishes that the prose were less restrained and that the author had given her subject’s life more of an arc. Still, Dudman artfully channels Wegener’s voice—prim and fastidious, but filled with longing—so convincingly that her book reads like an artifact of Old World exploration.
The New York Times
One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead is an imaginary memoir told through the voice of Wegener himself, as an old man reviewing his life. Dudman combines the current vogue for icebound adventure with the true-lives-of-the-scientists genre that Dava Sobel has made so popular. — Bruce Barcott
Publishers Weekly
In British author Dudman's stunning first adult novel, she reveals the poetry of science, interweaving a deep character study of German meteorologist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) with scenes of pulse-pounding Arctic adventure. Today, Wegener's theory of continental drift, with some refinements, is accepted as scientific truth. During his time, however, Wegener was seen as an eccentric failure. Dudman allows Wegener to tell his own story in first-person present tense. This approach utterly immerses the reader in a sensual, detail-rich world. Dudman's prose is luminous, as in Wegener's reverie over the pages of a rare old book: "I too am adding parts of myself to the pages: oils are leaking from the skin of my hands and molecules of fat are smearing themselves invisibly on its surface." Dudman also displays an astute gift for characterization. Wegener's complex relationship with his brother Kurt and his love for his wife, Else, as measured against his lust for meteorological expeditions, is expertly, often heartbreakingly portrayed. As the story leads inexorably toward Wegener's demise in the frozen tundra of Greenland, Dudman's control over her material becomes even more masterful. The emotional yet understated final scenes are particularly fine. Above all, Dudman shows us one incontrovertible truth about her Wegener: he loved the world, in all of its riotous complexity. Some may say the same of Dudman after reading this wise, beautiful novel. (Feb. 24) FYI: In 1995, Dudman's children's novel Edge of Danger won Britain's Kathleen Fidler Award. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the early 1900s, German meteorologist Alfred Wegener was better known for his high-risk scientific expeditions to Greenland and the Arctic than his theory of continental drift, which people thought ridiculous. With an Arts Council of England Writer's Award, Dudman (author of the children's novel Edge of Danger) wrote this fictionalized account of those grueling treks, during which Wegener's careful observation of icebergs and glaciers first led him to suspect that the earth's crust is fluid. Biographical novels are always problematic in that the reader never knows how much the author has invented. Here, Wegener's real accomplishments seem much more interesting than Dudman's psychological speculations. In addition, Arctic novels have become almost a distinct genre in recent years, ranging from William T. Vollmann's The Rifles to Andrea Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal, and there is only so much that can be done with frostbite, snow blindness, and starvation. Recommended mainly for popular science collections.-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly, somber debut about the life of the scientist who theorized continental drift. Tackling the fascinating but ultimately sad times of real-life German meteorologist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), the Welsh-born author blends impressive research with a dignified prose style that effectively evokes the turn of the 20th century. It's a work with small appeal for casual readers but one that will fascinate anyone with an interest in how science is done. It should also absorb anyone of a certain age whose attention ever wandered from the subject at hand to the world map on the wall of an elementary classroom to note the tantalizing parallels at the edges of the new and old worlds. Today's plate-tectonic savvy fourth-graders would be astonished to know that the supercontinent Pangaea was an idea rejected for decades after its early-20th-century postulation. Dudman follows Wegener from his rather sad Berlin childhood through an education that steered him to the new science of meteorology and his seminal explorations of Greenland, and on to the academic battles that littered his career as a scholar. The Greenland trips, daunting, life-threatening, taken on before the invention of Thinsulate, Gore-Tex, Ski-Doos, or any of the comforts that make it possible these days for amateurs to tackle the Yukon, are heavy going but critical in Dudman's reconstruction of Wegener's intellectual progression to his great theory. Patient readers will be rewarded as observations of weather and navigation connect step by step with fossil records and ice shifts until the movement of continents becomes understandable-and the resistance of Wegener's contemporaries to his explanations becomes maddening. There issome leavening in the reconstruction of Wegener's happy involvement with a pioneer meteorologist whose admiring young daughter becomes his capable and doting wife, but the science is always foremost. Amazingly, Wegener's theory got lost on the shelves for decades after his death. Not an easy read, but substantial and rewarding. Agent: Rupert Heath
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143034735
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Clare Dudman was born in North Wales and has worked as an industrial research and development scientist.

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Read an Excerpt

One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead

By Clare Dudman

Blackstone Audiobooks

Copyright © 2004 Clare Dudman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780786186204

Chapter One

There is a time, I tell her, that takes so long that only the land can understand. It is the land's time, with land-seconds, land-minutes and land-hours. In this time there are different rules; substances change character, even the most brittle solid can become liquid enough to flow. A land-second is long enough for an icicle to bend, and for a glacier to creep downwards to the sea. In a land-minute rocks can be pushed into mountains and they can curve and fold like baker's dough. But during a land-hour the solid-liquid continents have time to float by in the liquid-solid mantle; they fracture, they rift, they form valleys and then they float away. They push their way through the sima-mantle that has now become a liquid sea. Imagine the hours creaking by, Hilde, imagine continents colliding, earthquakes making the whole globe shake, and a mountain chain rising in a colossal wave.

Her head is sinking onto my shoulder. But when I shift she wakes and whimpers so I talk again.

Ah such mountains, my little one, if only we could see them: one continent nudging another, India against Asia, buckling up the land between to form a plateau in the clouds. Or the Andes, ribbing the earth like your curled up backbone, such acolossal chain, arching backwards as it encounters the chilled Pacific. So many land-hours have passed. The sima-surface of the ocean floor has set quite hard and the westward drift of the Americas has become a push. The leading edges buckle, the sial splinters, and from these rents volcanoes quietly exude a runny lava.

I stop. By my neck there is a wet patch of dribble. When we pass a mirror I see her eyes are shutting and then being forced open again and so I continue.

A land-day has passed and what do we see? Behind the stately-moving continent are a dozen islands, sloughed off in its wake, and in front of each island, at the cold bottom of an old ocean, the sima has become brittle enough to fracture and form a trench. So deep, Hilde. Imagine the blackness, imagine the cold. Every movement is sudden and ferocious: earthquakes, Hilde, great tidal waves, and before each shift a mighty swelling up of sima. Imagine a volcano, all that fire, all that heat.

She whimpers a little then sucks on her fist.

But this is so far away, little one, or so long ago. Even the land does not remember when the sial of Marburg last swept through oceans. There is nothing to fear. The only earthquakes here, my love, are the ones we make ourselves.


Excerpted from One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead by Clare Dudman Copyright © 2004 by Clare Dudman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
Part I Die Einleitung (The Introduction) 7
Part II Die Hypothese (The Hypothesis) 113
Part III Die Methode (The Method) 211
Part IV Der Schluss (The Conclusion) 325
Extract from New York Times, 12 December 1931 400
Author's Note 402
Further Reading 404
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Though this is a work of fiction, it is a wonderful homage to a brilliant German scientist, Alfred Wegener, and written in the spirit of an autobiograhy. Wonderful reading.

    Dudman has captured the insatiable curiosity and artistic spirit of an amazing scientist. I feel a lot closer to understanding what would draw someone to lose himself in the white silence of Greenland's icy wilderness in the early years of the 20th Century. Wegener becomes a real person, not just a man of science so many years ahead of his time with his theory of continental drift.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2004

    Poetic Glimpse Into A Scientific Mind

    ONE DAY THE ICE is a poetic, fictionalized biography of early 20th century German scientist Alfred Wegener. As scientists go, Wegener is pretty obscure ¿ I hadn¿t heard of him before reading this book. Trained in meteorology, Wegener made several grueling trips to arctic Greenland to conduct experiments. However, he did not limit his scientific curiosity to weather. His most important theory was continental drift, which was highly controversial at the time. The compelling need to defend his theory to skeptical geologists led to him leaving his family at age 49 for a final trip to Greenland. Early on Dudman uses the analogy of beads on a string to describe memories and it¿s a very fitting analogy for the flow of the book. Written in first person, Wegener reminisces about his life ¿ moving from one set of memories to another. Dudman captures everyday sweet and bittersweet moments of love, family and deep friendships; the driving force behind a scientific mind; the beautifully bleak and hostile landscape of Greenland; and the horrific chaos of war. This is not a standard biography with comprehensive coverage of dates and names, and is also not a scientific discourse on continental drift and other theories. ONE DAY is instead an emotional portrait of a man driven to understand the workings of the world through science. Dudman does an excellent job of setting up the times and Wegener¿s narrative never rings false. At times I forgot that I was reading fiction because the style was so convincing. Not a quick, easy read, but ultimately satisfying. This will mostly appeal to history/science buffs who want to peek into the mind of a early 1900s scientist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2004

    Meandering plot

    Nowadays, the theory of plate tectonics is firmly grounded in fact. For example, from satellites in stable orbit and using lasers to bounce off them, the various continental plates can be measured moving relative to each other. But in the early 20th century, when Wegener proposed his theory, no such observations were possible. Existing evidence was far more tenuous. Dudman attempts to recreate some of that controversy in this fictionalised biography. Based in part on actual biographies written by his wife and a colleague. Some of spirit of the scientific debates come through well in portions of this book. Personally, being a physicist, I would have wished for a more detailed fleshing out of the issues. But I realise that Dudman has to pitch the book to a wider audience. To this ends, the book seems to drift [pun intended]. The travails of Wegener tromping in the snows of Greenland are told in a somewhat incoherent stream of consciousness style. No doubt, this is meant to reflect Wegener's state of mind, as told in the first person. But the meandering also happens where he describes his experiences with his family and friends, when not on expeditions. Frankly, I could not discern much of an interesting plot.

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