The Crystal Desert

The Crystal Desert

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by David G. Campbell
     
 

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THE CRYSTAL DESERT: SUMMERS IN ANTARCTICA is the story of life's tenacity on the coldest of Earth's continents. It tells of the explorers who discovered Antarctica, of the whalers and sealers who despoiled it, and of the scientists who are deciphering its mysteries. In beautiful, lucid prose, David G. Campbell chronicles the desperately short summers on the

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Overview

THE CRYSTAL DESERT: SUMMERS IN ANTARCTICA is the story of life's tenacity on the coldest of Earth's continents. It tells of the explorers who discovered Antarctica, of the whalers and sealers who despoiled it, and of the scientists who are deciphering its mysteries. In beautiful, lucid prose, David G. Campbell chronicles the desperately short summers on the Antarctic Peninsula. He presents a fascinating portrait of the evolution of life in Antarctica and also of the evolution of the continent itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Campbell's eloquent chronicle of three summers spent at a desolate research center in Antarctica details the region's geology, botany and animal life. (Jan.)
Library Journal
While Greater Antarctica has often been depicted as a vast, frozen wasteland, marine biologist and researcher Campbell writes that during ``the short erotic summer along the ocean margins of the continent, Antarctica seemed to be a celebration of everything living.'' A rare nonfiction winner of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award, he recounts three summers he spent on the Antarctica Peninsula. Along with descriptions of seabirds, walruses, and plankton, Campbell ruminates on a number of topics, ranging from his research (``It is snow-hailing this morning when I make my first scuba dive into Admiralty Bay'') to sealing and whaling, geology and paleontology. Campbell effectively delineates the Antarctic with words as Ron Naveen and others did with photography in Wild Ice ( LJ 11/15/90). Crystal Desert will be compared to Barry Lopez's Artic Dreams ( LJ 3/1/86), but Campbell is a scientist who writes rather than a writer about science. Recommended for medium to large public and academic libraries.-- Jean E. Crampon, Hancock Biology & Oceanography Lib . , Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles
Booknews
The author's personal account of his experiences at the Brazilian Antarctic Research Station during three "erotic summers"--erotic because the only sensible balance to the cold, life-threatening winters of Antarctica is an all out procreative frenzy--both for indigenous life and visiting researchers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A glittering, curlicued natural history of Antarctica: Campbell's literary debut and a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award winner. Campbell (Nations and the Global Environment/Grinnell College) passed three summers at Brazil's Antarctic Research Station, in a land of surprisingly abundant life "hatching, squabbling, swimming, and soaring on the sea wind" during the "short, erotic summer." His research centered on marine crustaceans, but his canvas here encompasses all wild creatures of the Antarctic—as well as the humans who have hunted them to near-extinction. Campbell scuba dives in unexplored waters and finds an ocean floor teeming with "a bouquet of species" that includes anemones, sea stars, limpets, giant sea spiders, and more sponges than anywhere else on earth. He collects Weddell seal dung; visits a penguin rookery with its "fetal barnyard stench"; notes the "incongruous—and sublime" presence of fiery volcanoes in a land of ice; watches a "blizzard of plankton" at night and likens it to the swarming stars above. Superlatives abound: the Atlantic Convergence (the waters cutting Antarctica off from the rest of the planet) is "the longest and most important biological barrier on earth"; Antarctica "is the windiest place on earth"; the continent's dry valleys are "the simplest of Earth's ecosystems." Fossils excite Campbell's fancy (he wonders if we might find similar remains on Mars, with its Antarctic-like climate), as do ornithology and plate tectonics. He deplores seal and whale hunting as "carnage," and he frets about the Antarctic blue whale, now protected but perhaps too decimated to repopulate. Yet Campbell seems to appreciate the economic motivesbehind the great age of Antarctic hunting, and he admits to some edginess about Greenpeace—a nuanced position that reflects his firm grasp of the lovely, impossibly tangled web of Antarctic life. Fits nicely alongside Stephen Pyne's The Ice (1986) on the very slim shelf of first-rate Antarctic natural histories.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618219216
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/01/2002
Edition description:
None
Pages:
322
Sales rank:
463,625
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.72(d)

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