Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory, crafts a narrative of endurance, discovery and scientific innovation beginning in the 19th century, during the great age of arctic exploration. The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future recounts scientists' and explorers' investigations into the vast, frigid island up to the present day. The eccentric figures Gerner profiles--including Fridtjof Nansen and Robert Peary--sometimes seem less motivated by scientific curiosity than the fame and fortune that their adventures brought them, but their grueling treks nevertheless helped chart Greenland and offer insights into its weather, terrain and more. In the 20th century, expeditions became more explicitly scientific even as the island was swept up in Cold War paranoia and became the site of enormous U.S. military bases. Gertner shows how scientists changed approaches over time, going from digging holes in the ice to drilling ice cores that contain thousands of years of climatic history.
Gertner is deeply apprehensive about Greenland's future, which he convincingly demonstrates is tied to the future of our planet. What his scientific heroes discover is alarming: Greenland's ice sheet is rapidly melting. Gertner voices concern for the consequences this will have on rising sea levels, for example, but he also mourns the disappearance of the ice itself. Once thought of as a lifeless desert, Gertner's book memorializes the ice sheet's beauty and the astounding secrets it continues to hold. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.