The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future

The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future

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...

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Title:The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future
Author:Jon Gertner
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Edition Language:English

The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future Reviews

  • Tomislav

    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

    (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

    (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.

  • Donna

    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!

  • Matthew

    Excellent book about the history of Greenland from its discovery and exploration to its modern status as a repository of Earth's climatic history via deep ice core drilling. Also a very sobering look at our planet's possible future.

  • Tonstant Weader

    The Ice at the End of the World is a history of the exploration of Greenland’s massive ice sheet and the scientific research conducted there. There are many articles and books about climate change and rising sea levels linked to the melting ice of Greenland, but Jon Gertner takes a different approach. He goes back to the beginning to the first explorers and the kinds of research findings they brought back. This puts the research that alarms many today into a context of historical inquiry and fac

    The Ice at the End of the World is a history of the exploration of Greenland’s massive ice sheet and the scientific research conducted there. There are many articles and books about climate change and rising sea levels linked to the melting ice of Greenland, but Jon Gertner takes a different approach. He goes back to the beginning to the first explorers and the kinds of research findings they brought back. This puts the research that alarms many today into a context of historical inquiry and fact-finding.

    Most articles focus on current research and the conclusions of contemporary scientists. This takes it out of the context of history and the slowly dawning awareness that the ice is shrinking. Gertner restores that context, allowing readers to understand that researchers did not go to Greenland to prove climate change was happening. They went to Greenland to measure the ice and measure it over time. There measurements forced the realization that climate change is happening and at a greater, more alarming rate that previously thought.

    The Ice at the End of the World is a fascinating history. I have a long obsession with the Arctic and Antarctic exploration that also includes Greenland. Exploring terra incognita is always fascinating, but even more so when it is so inhospitable. The challenge to just survive is immense, but then to stop and measure the ice, the temperature, and take soundings at the same time is heroic. Imagine, you’re short on food rations, your eyes burn from the sunlight on the snow, anywhere your skin is exposed is damaged and in pain, and your cold, so cold, and all a normal person would be thinking would be about getting warm and getting food, but you are stopping to take measurements, even in extremis.

    Climate change is the most urgent issue facing humanity. Thankfully, most other countries don’t have a 24-hour propaganda machine telling them it’s a hoax, so outside the U.S. this is not a controversial statement. It is accepted as fact, as it should be. One reason people are so credulous and eager to believe the climate change deniers is they don’t understand how science works. They don’t know how it’s done and think grand international conspiracies involving nearly every scientist on the planet are possible. This history is an antidote to that kind of ignorance.

    Gertner’s book benefits from avoiding dogmatism. Climate change is real, reading about how the measurements, the facts, came first before the explanations is a counter to the conspiracists.

    I received an e-galley of The Ice at the End of the World from the publisher through NetGalley.

    The Ice at the End of the World at Penguin Random House

    Jon Gertner author site

  • Lisa

    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.

  • Charles Fried

    If you want an excellent introduction to climate change this is the book. There are great stories of the early explorers of Greenland, as well as recent scientific expeditions. This book is suitable for both scientists and non-scientists, full of anecdotes, and people, and stories, as well as scientific material clearly and simply explained. This is a frightening book. It scares me that we have climate change deniers, dangerous idiots, running our country. They should be required to read this bo

    If you want an excellent introduction to climate change this is the book. There are great stories of the early explorers of Greenland, as well as recent scientific expeditions. This book is suitable for both scientists and non-scientists, full of anecdotes, and people, and stories, as well as scientific material clearly and simply explained. This is a frightening book. It scares me that we have climate change deniers, dangerous idiots, running our country. They should be required to read this book.

  • May

    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.

  • Vicky Hunt

    The book that needed to be written;

    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

    The book that needed to be written;

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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:

    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.

    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.

  • Susan Paxton

    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.

  • Kaitlyn Joy

    I received an Advanced Review Copy of The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner from the publisher Random House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    What It’s About: A history of glacierology, with scientific fact interluded in.

    I'll be honest, I really didn't love this. I'm a scientist but know nothing about Glaciers and Greenland and so was excited to see the implications of global warming but I really fou

    I received an Advanced Review Copy of The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner from the publisher Random House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    What It’s About: A history of glacierology, with scientific fact interluded in.

    I'll be honest, I really didn't love this. I'm a scientist but know nothing about Glaciers and Greenland and so was excited to see the implications of global warming but I really found it rather dull.

    I would say if you have a passion for glaciers or Greenland, you may find this book fun but it was not for me.

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