An Antarctic Reading and Viewing List

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Here are the books and DVDs that I found most useful and enjoyable in preparing for our Antarctic trip, and while there.

Books

Collection of books that we found useful for our Antarctica trip
Collection of books that we found useful for our Antarctica trip

Endurance, by Alfred Lansing, is a page-turning classic that tells the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated second expedition to Antarctica.

The Endurance, by Caroline Alexander, also tells the Shackleton story with more information; she wrote her book 29 years later. It has the added benefit of featuring photographs taken by the expedition photographer, Frank Hurley (who saved the negatives before the Endurance sank beneath the ice).

End of the Earth, by Peter Matthiessen, recounts the author’s two journeys to Antarctica. Matthiessen writes with a keen eye for nature in an almost lyrical style.

The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, describes the author’s harrowing experiences as a member of the disastrous 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott (who did not survive). One of the great adventure stories.

A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife, by Hadoram Shirihai, comprises illustrations, photographs and maps in the most detailed reference work on the subject. At 544 pages, it was too heavy to carry along, but I referred to it often on my return.

Antarctic Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide, by James Lowen, turned out to be just right for taking on the trip. Usefully organized by area, it contains excellent photographs that are helpful in identifying species.

Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler, is a narrative of her year on the ice as a guest of the National Science Foundation at the McMurdo Station, written in a personal, anecdotal style.

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DVDs

Collection of DVDs that we found useful for our Antarctica trip
Collection of DVDs that we found useful for our Antarctica trip

South assembles the original film of the Shackleton expedition taken by the official photographer, Frank Hurley. Restored by the British Film Institute, it offers a fascinating, almost heartbreaking look at the team who made up the expedition and the privations they endured.

March of the Penguins recounts the extraordinary life cycle of the great emperor penguins that live on the Ross Ice Shelf. Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Antarctica brings together two PBS Nature documentaries. The first details the landscape of the continent and how it has been formed over the ages and is being formed today. The second explains the vital role the waters around the continent play in the annual cycle of life. Highly informative with superb photography and a clear narrative.

Frozen Planet comes from the BBC documentary team that made the incredible Planet Earth series. Continuing in that tradition, this seven-part program looks at both Antarctica and the Arctic with sequences of never-before-filmed natural life and a narration by Sir David Attenborough.

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