The Ice at the End of the World
Greenland: a remote, mysterious island five times the size of California but with a population of just 56,000. The ice sheet that covers it is 700 miles wide and 1,500 miles long, and is composed of nearly three quadrillion tons of ice. For the last 150 years, explorers and scientists have sought to understand Greenland--at first hoping that it would serve as a gateway to the North Pole, and later coming to realize that it contained essential information about our climate. Locked within this vast and frozen white desert are some of the most profound secrets about our planet and its future. Greenland's ice doesn't just tell us where we've been. More urgently, it tells us where we're headed.In The Ice at the End of the World, Jon Gertner explains how Greenland has evolved from one of earth's last frontiers to its largest scientific laboratory. The history of Greenland's ice begins with the explorers who arrived here at the turn of the twentieth century--first on foot, then on skis, then on crude, motorized sleds--and embarked on grueling expeditions that took as long as a year and often ended in frostbitten tragedy. Their original goal was simple: to conquer Greenland's seemingly infinite interior. Yet their efforts eventually gave way to scientists who built lonely encampments out on the ice and began drilling--one mile, two miles down. Their aim was to pull up ice cores that could reveal the deepest mysteries of earth's past, going back hundreds of thousands of years.Today, scientists from all over the world are deploying every technological tool available to uncover the secrets of this frozen island before it's too late. As Greenland's ice melts and runs off into the sea, it not only threatens to affect hundreds of millions of people who live in coastal areas. It will also have drastic effects on ocean currents, weather systems, economies, and migration patterns.Gertner chronicles the unfathomable hardships, amazing discoveries, and scientific achievements of the Arctic's explorers and researchers with a transporting, deeply intelligent style--and a keen sense of what this work means for the rest of us. The melting ice sheet in Greenland is, in a way, an analog for time. It contains the past. It reflects the present. It can also tell us how much time we might have left.

The Ice at the End of the World Details

TitleThe Ice at the End of the World
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 11th, 2019
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780812996623
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Travel, History, Environment

The Ice at the End of the World Review

  • Susan Paxton
    January 1, 1970
    This is an important book. Deniers argue that climate change is a recent and invented or, conversely, a "natural" phenomenon. Jon Gertner spent several years working on this book to prove that the current climate change is none of those things, but in fact has been evident for many decades and is human-caused. The arena he selected for his tale is Greenland, the world's largest island, covered in a sheet of ice that is in places several thousands of feet thick, and his method is looking closely This is an important book. Deniers argue that climate change is a recent and invented or, conversely, a "natural" phenomenon. Jon Gertner spent several years working on this book to prove that the current climate change is none of those things, but in fact has been evident for many decades and is human-caused. The arena he selected for his tale is Greenland, the world's largest island, covered in a sheet of ice that is in places several thousands of feet thick, and his method is looking closely at a number of the expeditions that have explored this forbidding place and, over decades, explicated the science of change.It's an addictive read, graced with fascinating characters, some well-known - Nansen and Peary - and others less so but who deserve to be, such as Alfred Wegener and Paul-Emile Victor. Gertner has a novelist's eye for compelling details about people, and each of his characters is well drawn and their explorations and findings thoroughly explained in a way that is less a dry science book but a very interesting story. In recent years the study of Greenland has expanded from treks over the ice and months spent in stations observing the weather, to drilling for deep ice cores and satellite studies. The most frightening result from all of this information is less that the climate is warming, but how the ancient ice cores show that climate change can occur rapidly - within years, not centuries. We may be rapidly nearing such a tipping point, and the end result is unpredictable.Gertner also touches on some other research, including into the dangerous Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. The endnotes are very helpful, as is his comments on his sources, which hopefully will lead many to further reading.You'll come away from this with a deep understanding of Greenland and some of the most recent insights into the current state of climatology. This is vital, and the sad thing is that the people who need to read this book will not.
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  • Tomislav
    January 1, 1970
    I read an advance reader copy of Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World, in uncorrected proof ebook, provided to me by Penguin / Random House through netgalley, in return for promising to write an honest review. The book is scheduled for release on June 11, 2019. Jon Gertner is an American writer, the author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (2012), which I have not yet read, and a longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine.The book first fol I read an advance reader copy of Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World, in uncorrected proof ebook, provided to me by Penguin / Random House through netgalley, in return for promising to write an honest review. The book is scheduled for release on June 11, 2019. Jon Gertner is an American writer, the author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (2012), which I have not yet read, and a longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine.The book first follows a historical approach to the exploration of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and then transitions into a historical presentation of the subsequent scientific investigations, right up to 2018. Greenland is the largest island in the world, located in the Arctic Ocean between North America and Europe, and barely inhabited. It is largely covered with a mile-thick continental glacier – much like that which retreated from northern North America and Europe a mere 10,000 years ago – and like the one which still covers Antarctica. Gertner covers the first expeditions to cross that Ice Sheet episodically, beginning with Fridtjof Nansen’s 1888 expedition of five men pulling five heavy sledges. The stories introduce the characters, describe the techniques and technologies used, include interactions with the sparse indigenous cultures, and dramatically trace the events of those critical crossings. An interesting historical photograph introduces each story, and they reminded me of memoirs of the early Antarctic expeditions I have previously read. Indeed, a few of the individuals are the same. Up until the interregnum of World War II, the interests of these early explorers such as Robert Peary, Knud Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen, and Alfred Wegener were personal fame and national prestige. Some data was collected, but primarily of a cartographic nature.A new era of exploration began in Greenland at the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s. Because Greenland is strategically located between the nuclear superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union, the US spent enormous amounts of money and manpower developing the military utility of the region, even offered to purchase it in its entirety from Denmark. Military technology and logistics required large amounts of accurate data, and natural science researchers were able to quietly piggyback. However, with the development of intercontinental missiles based in the homelands, the high-spending period passed, leaving infrastructure in place for more purely scientific endeavors. With time it has become apparent that the ice sheet is not in a steady state, and not even just receding at a geological pace. GPS-indexed air and satellite observations have detailed how the retreat is accelerating. Deep core samples of the ice have shown that periods of relatively rapid climatic change do occur. The system is complex with positively reinforced cycles that could continue to drive ice sheet collapse once initiated. Coming up to the present day, Gertner focuses on research into the mechanisms of those sudden changes, which could potentially push sea level rise in unexpected large steps over the current 3 mm per year. The Ice at the End of the World is both an entertaining history, and a clear explanation of the current state of knowledge of glaciology and its relationship to oceans and climate. This book is timely, and I am highly recommending it.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This was a great book. The first half follows the early explorers of Greenland. The author provides vivid detail and conveys their hardship in a way that makes you really see them out on the ice without a tree or another human being for hundreds (thousands?) of miles. The second half dives into what scientists are up to on the Greenland ice sheet. This was a great read, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in climate change and the history of arctic exploration.
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  • May
    January 1, 1970
    I give The Ice at the End of the World by Jon Gertner 4 stars, or in this case 4. I found the first half so fascinating, I loved the explorations and learning about Greenlandic culture and landscape. The second half, the science part was harder to follow and much more in depth than I am interested in. All in all, I loved reading a book about Greenland and want to learn more about the culture and history now.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    I highly recommend this fascinating and important book, beautifully written by New York Times bestselling author and long-time friend Jon Gertner. After finishing it, I had a real understanding of not only Greenland's past (including jaw-dropping accounts of exploration) but also Greenland's current and future impact on our world. A must-read book!
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  • Linnaea
    January 1, 1970
    This was a great science history of Greenland. Gertner covers the European time of discovery - landing on the island, crossing the ice sea and the movement into the modern science of glaciology. it was easy to follow.
  • Foggygirl
    January 1, 1970
    Great read, A fascinating account of the early European explorers of the Arctic and the uncertain future of the climate of the region.
  • M.
    January 1, 1970
    It was a good read.
  • PWRL
    January 1, 1970
    O
  • Amy Wels
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic book on the history of exploration and the current relevance of Greenland. Fascinating accounts of the first European explorers who crossed the middle of the country in spite of the harshest conditions on the planet. The earliest climatologists collected and measured the environment and weather patterns, which are invaluable to the research of today. Discusses the military history and the evidence of our current state of extreme climate change. I would have enjoyed further information Fantastic book on the history of exploration and the current relevance of Greenland. Fascinating accounts of the first European explorers who crossed the middle of the country in spite of the harshest conditions on the planet. The earliest climatologists collected and measured the environment and weather patterns, which are invaluable to the research of today. Discusses the military history and the evidence of our current state of extreme climate change. I would have enjoyed further information on the indigenous people native to the area, however, this book is detailed and gives the reader a vast wealth of knowledge regarding Greenland and it's history.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley & publisher in exchange for an honest review. (They may regret this.) Any and all quotes were taken from an advanced edition subject to change in the final edition.
  • Chad Guarino
    January 1, 1970
    Jon Gertner's treatise on the Greenland ice sheet is a timely look at the past, present, and potentially harrowing future of one of the more desolate of Earth's landscapes. Gertner divides the book into two distinct sections: the first half deals with the various attempts to explore, map, and research Greenland's endless white plains by the first explorers brave (or crazy) enough to try, while the second part is a more modern look (roughly from the 1940s to the present) of the island. As a fan o Jon Gertner's treatise on the Greenland ice sheet is a timely look at the past, present, and potentially harrowing future of one of the more desolate of Earth's landscapes. Gertner divides the book into two distinct sections: the first half deals with the various attempts to explore, map, and research Greenland's endless white plains by the first explorers brave (or crazy) enough to try, while the second part is a more modern look (roughly from the 1940s to the present) of the island. As a fan of non-fiction accounts of polar exploration, I found the first half of the book to be entertaining and exciting, an amalgamation of covered crevasses, dog sled adventures, and gradual starvation. The second half of the book by contrast is an often distressing look at the impact human activity has made (and is continuing to make) on Greenland's vast fields of ice. While the predictions Gertner details on sea level rise and greenhouse gas deposits are depressing, he manages to avoid all out misery by describing various ideas put forth by researchers to curb future melting, which are audacious in their scope and design. In light of recent climate change and environmental reports that have been released, Gertner's book comes at a critical time. While it's incredibly easy to actively forget about a landmass that is home to less than 60,000 people, Gertner's argument is that we should be doing the exact opposite. ***I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Random House.***
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  • Vicky Hunt
    January 1, 1970
    A Microcosm of Glaciology: And The Politics That PayThe book that needed to be written; The Ice at the End of the World is that book that briefly surveys the history of Greenland’s exploration, and the work that is done in those research stations we know exist, but know little about. I have read a large number of books written by and about polar explorers and expeditions. But, I have not yet found good books on what is happening in those research stations and in the field of glaciology. In the f A Microcosm of Glaciology: And The Politics That PayThe book that needed to be written; The Ice at the End of the World is that book that briefly surveys the history of Greenland’s exploration, and the work that is done in those research stations we know exist, but know little about. I have read a large number of books written by and about polar explorers and expeditions. But, I have not yet found good books on what is happening in those research stations and in the field of glaciology. In the first part of this book Mr. Gertner brings the focus to Greenland in an approach that is historically oriented and covers the early explorers of Greenland. He continues this chronological ordering of events in the second half, but there the locus of movement is through the group agencies of governments and research teams. And, that is where we see the bulk of the ‘new material’ presented. “The pull on an object moving overhead can be greater wherever the mass is denser— for instance, above mountain ranges like the Rockies or Alps, or over vast ice sheets like Greenland’s. These gravitational variations can have subtle but important effects. They can influence the paths of satellites and ballistic missiles, for instance, which is something the U.S. military cares deeply about. They can also affect the oceans, since sea levels can be distorted in some locations by the gravitational effects of what lies far beneath the water’s surface. Down below, there are deep trenches, submerged mountain ranges, and the remnants of lost continents that slid under the seafloor hundreds of millions of years ago. If you could gather an improved measurement of the planet’s mean gravity field, the data could prove useful in fields ranging from aeronautics to oceanography.”I excitedly bought this book the day it released on Audible. But, it was so intensely interesting that I immediately added the Kindle whisper-sync to read along. Of course, when he mentioned Nansen’s ship was called the Jason, I had to read Jason and the Golden Fleece as well, to fully enjoy the reference there. That is a great work and it gives you some idea of the spirit of these early explorers. With my habit of researching every new thing I saw, it has taken me almost three weeks to finish the book. But, it could have been read much faster. “Coming toward it from the west coast, the ice sheet gives an impression not of a desert but of an ocean—not only because it seems to capture the entire horizon, but because it is sculpted into hillocks and hollows, like a roiling sea on a day of serious weather. Sometimes, the ice sheet has also struck me as the photographic negative of an ocean. Rather than darkness streaked with white foam, it is lightness streaked with silt and dust.”The author starts with the ski treks across the continent, and the deaths of some of the early expedition members. Then he moves to the American military base that was established at Thule during WWII, where we built air strips and brought in planes and trucks. This made cross continent travel a rapid proposition, instead of something that consumes whole seasons. He reminded us that the US only did that because of military interests with Germany and then the Cold War with Russia. He mentions that we did not have women explorers, but I know of none from other countries either. He complains that though the Science teams had unlimited budgetary funding for any of the work that they wanted to do, via riding along with the US military, it was for selfish reasons on our part. Then, the Cold War ended, and the free-flowing budget. Explorers were back to square one with obtaining funding for polar expeditions. But, they had made a lot of progress during those years, and had banked a large store of ice cores. This is where the book got interesting on a scientific level. “…glaciers known as “outlet” or “marine terminating” carry such importance. They flow from the edges of ice sheets and end at the ocean.”The details that I found most intriguing were the early sub-ice bases, the building of and work at the bunker, the US operation of Thule, GRACE, and the IceBridge program. But, more important, he went into the details of the more recent melting of the Greenland ice sheet. He spoke briefly of the reaction of the Inuit to the new land that is appearing in Greenland where the ice sheet once rested. “The Arctic is the world’s cooling system,” –attributed to a Finnish official At times, the book seems to be a bit too political, with criticism of United States policy and Americans in general. For example, when discussing the early explorers, Gertner brings out the negatives of the personal life of the American on the ice. Yet, he presents the other explorers as perfect humans, which I don’t think really exist. He complains that American culture has had an impact on the culture of the Inuits because they could buy groceries and cigarettes at the base… but, he doesn’t seem to think that the Finns, the British, the Germans, the French… have impacted Inuit culture. More experienced authors choose to write from a historical and scientific framework, and avoid political alliances in issues of Science. They try to remain unbiased. Objectivity seems to be a trait Gertner is acquiring in his writing. But, overall I was very satisfied with the amount and detail of the scientific information presented. Here, I will insert 4 opinions, which you can take or leave by passing on to the next section:1. He seems a bit unsophisticated in money matters by thinking that any government budget is going to allocate unlimited funding to science on a perpetual basis, without some civilian or military spinoffs to directly pay for the project. Yes, I see the realities here on the ice. But, does he see the other problems that exist on the Earth? In California at the moment, nearly 69% of Californians are homeless. Yes, it may be a bad thing if the airport is submerged due to climate change. But, I don’t think that a large percentage of the population could afford airline tickets. Governments are constrained by all the problems of the populace, not just research goals. 2. America is an open media country and we know all the short-comings of our leaders. Many other countries do not share the problems of their own. He mentions that Robert Peary had children with an Inuit woman, as well as with his wife, who was in Greenland with him. He never says whether any of the other men lived as monks or visited the local women since their wives were not there. Throughout the first section, he only deals with Science where the other countries are concerned, but gets personal with the Americans. Of course, he is an American. Maybe his own knowledge of the real human element was limited to that of America. 3. We don't have a government that is ruled by military, business, religion, or Science. Oligarchy is rule by few powerful people, as in financial Oligarchies that are ruled by business interests. Corporatocracy is a more pejorative term meaning rule by corporations. Military Dictatorships, a Stratocracy, or juntas are rule by the military. Technocracy is rule by Scientists. Theocracy is rule by religion. Ideally, a Democracy is not supposed to be ruled by special interest groups. The people are represented by their leaders who make decisions that reflect the interests of the whole. This is why no decision is ever made by governments, unless it will have a direct effect on the current generation, as he pointed out. 4. As a total offside comment, it seems sad to me that often it is the US Americans who are opposed to abortion who are the most willing to ignore scientific reality, environmental pollution and mismanagement, and wildlife trafficking. It would seem that people who think children have a right to life would be concerned about the life they are leaving behind. I think this happens because many Americans vote by party, and support the policies of their chosen party, rather than thinking about the issues. In a better world, politicians would want to do the right things, and not just follow the platform. Gertner gives glaciology a thourough treatment in this book. He covers some of the more well known glaciers, like Helheim Glacier in east Greenland, Jakobshavn Glacier, a fracturing river of ice, flowing from a channel on the western edge of the ice sheet, and Thwaites in Antarctica. He explains the support of ice shelves. He talks about the Paris Accord goals. The most realistic answer he presents is the fact that the year 2100 has increasingly become a benchmark for the climate community, for working towards concrete improvements in managing the human effect on the environment. “A few thousand years ago, for instance, Alley notes that “you can see the little blip of the Romans.” This would mean the residue of ancient smelters, in Spain and elsewhere, which the Romans used to burn ore to render silver. The process released lead into the air as a by-product, which eventually was deposited in snow that fell on Greenland. In more recent cores, Alley says, we can see lead traces from the fumes of the industrial revolution, which began in the late 1700s. And then eventually, in cores from the twentieth century, the unmistakable fingerprint from leaded gasoline comes through. And yet, something interesting happens in the 1980s. Lead traces in the ice mostly disappear. “We turned it off. We cleaned it up,” Alley says, pointing to the switch in automobiles to unleaded gasoline after lead was banned by environmental regulations. “And the world didn’t end, and the economy didn’t end. And you can’t look back at economic data and find a horrible disaster that happened when we decided we didn’t want to poison ourselves with lead.”I recommend this book for anyone interested in the science of glaciology. It is an intriguing work, and well written. I did feel like the focus strayed from the science a few times, and focused on politics a bit more than it could have. But, that is not unusual in pop science. This is not an academic work at any rate, and is written as something for the average adult reader. And, it is written in a manner that is easy enough to follow, without too much scientific jargon. I enjoyed reading it and will hopefully read more of Mr. Gertner’s books in the future, though they may not find a spot in my current Journey Around the World in 80 Books for 2019. So many books. So little time.
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  • Onceinabluemoon
    January 1, 1970
    Bad timing for me, recovering from food poisoning and thought climate change would be an interesting topic, I was instantly at odds with the book as it discusses the historical explorations and slaughter of animals... My stomach was not up for the butchery and spent too much time skimming.
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