The Avid Reader: Plunge into good reads about Antarctica

  • Ben Conant

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/24/2022 9:03:33 AM
Modified: 3/24/2022 9:02:41 AM

As many of my readers know, I became a citizen of the Grand Dutchy of Flandrensis some time ago. We are a small, but mighty nation located off the coast of West Antarctica, consisting of Siple Island, Cherry Island, Maher Island, Pranke Island and Carney Island. Flandrensis was founded as an ecological venture, to raise awareness on ice melting and all of our citizens are committed to never having any intention of ever visiting. The territorial proclamation for governance over these islands by the nation of Flandrensis is a statement to the international community asserting that our micronation is the only country in the world that doesn't want any people on its territory. We state this because we believe that Antarctica is a fragile environment that must be protected for science and wildlife – and from people and pollution.

Titles are granted by Grand Duke Nicholas and one has to work hard to achieve this honor. My main function as the New Hampshire consul representing the Grand Dutchy is to organize two local clean-ups every year and to write letters to business people and politicians to lobby for an extension of the Antarctic Treaty which will help keep Antarctica free from annexation by any country. I have written many letters, annoyed several politicians, badgered Michael Bloomberg, and beleaguered the head of the World Bank. It hasn’t been easy, but it sure is fun.

Clean-up activities include rounding up neighborhood children and doing a thorough sweep of walking paths. One does not become a Baroness by sitting idle. If any like-minded readers are interested – get in touch – we can talk while we pick up a roadside.

The bottom line is that Antarctica is a magnificent continent, but more fragile than we ever thought. Not long ago, people didn’t realize that climate change had much impact on Antarctica. Now we know better, and the race is on to save as much as possible in the face of impending global disaster. To understand the fragile beauty of Antarctica, which is the most alien place on the planet, I would strongly recommend Gabrielle Walker’s comprehensive book “Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent.” Walker’s writing crosses this vast continent, mostly covered in ice but, in some places, bereft of all but dirt and rock. Yes, there is a desert – no snow, no ice. Just one more fascinating fact about a little-known, but crucial, part of our world. Using vivid descriptions and captivating anecdotes about her wonderful travels across Antarctica, Walker really makes her readers feel as if they are there. She moves us from the most dramatic scientific experiments to driving a snowdozer.

We read about drilling ice cores, and what is happening to our seventh continent due to climate change. Although Walker is a scientist writing a factual narrative, she is so eloquent that I felt as if I were reading a novel. This book is very moving, especially action-packed, and filled with delightful vignettes about those scientists, animals, and interesting characters who make Antarctica their home at least part of the year. Once reading Walker’s thrilling trip to the farthest reaches of our earth is done, you are going to want more. “Antarctica: The Waking Giant” by explorer Sebastian Copeland (Forward by Leonardo DiCaprio) is a must read. This book is a compilation of the most swoon-worthy photographs of Antarctica that I have seen. In fact, this book has won three prestigious photography awards, and Copeland has been named “photographer of the year” by the Tokyo International Awards in 2020.

What does Copeland tell us? He explains that Antarctica is alive, powerful, and continually moving. The ice sheet is calving to the sea, melting at an unprecedented rate, and in so doing threatening the shoreline of every other continent on this planet. If enough ice melts shorelines around the world can rise up to 16 feet!

Yes, Copeland also photographs the desert deep in the continent (see Walker’s discussion of this astonishing place), but the coast is teeming with life. These whales, birds, seals and penguins have all evolved apart from human contact. We want to keep it that way. Time is getting short for this, but while we are all working to save the planet, take some time to look at the brilliant photographs, read Copeland’s moving words, and explore the mystery of this continent.

As a Flandrensian, I must also mention that we do have a standing (sometimes waddling, often swimming) army of several thousand recruits. Charles Bergman writes about them in his charming book “Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All.” Yes, our troops are adorable! Jane Goodall noted that “This is a book of joy, love, and hope for penguins and the world.”

Cute and clumsy, these social birds live in large colonies, stand upright, swim in frigid waters, give stones as tokens of affection to mates, and charm the dickens out of anyone lucky enough to encounter them either in the wild or at an aquarium. They also live in other parts of the southern hemisphere, but obviously the most precious ones are ours! The book began with an unexpected encounter between Bergman and a king penguin. He quickly fell in love with this bird and he and his wife, Susan, committed to seeing all 18 species. Bergman’s original purpose in writing this book was to photograph and discuss every type of penguin on the planet – very scientific. However, when he got going, his enthusiasm grew and he fell even more in love with his topic.

Bergman discovered that while there are 18 species of penguins, 11 are globally threatened and the fear is that more will be added to the list as the world heats up and changes even more. Now a passionate advocate for this adorable, but declining bird, he says, “If we can’t save what we love, what can we save?” This should be the question on everyone’s mind, because there is much to love in Antarctica, and much to save. Read the stories, look at the photographs to marvel at the grandeur, and take our fluffy army into your hearts. Saving our seventh continent is a very worthwhile endeavor indeed.


When Dr. Elaine, a Peterborough native, is not being a Baroness, she is the director of The Reading Foundation in Amherst, N.H., and a talk show host on WSMN 1590 AM, 95.3 FM.

Sign up for Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Newsletters
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Headline Alerts
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute North
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute South
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Real Estate & Transactions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Contests and Promotions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Dining & Entertainment
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Sports


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458


© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy