The Ice at the End of the World by Jon Gertner [10/10]

Jon Gertner, NYT journalist and historian, has penned a modern masterpiece of natural history at the outer edge of climate change science with “The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future.” Greenland has never been on my reading list but from the first page, Gertner propels a spellbinding, eloquent account of the history of that frozen mass. The first seven chapters recount macho death-defying exploration, the rousing tales of Nansen and Peary at the end of the nineteenth century, crossing and exploring one of earth’s last and most forbidding frontiers. Rasmussen and Wegener take the story through the first half of the twentieth century, still mostly raw exploration, but an emerging realisation of the scientific secrets locked in Greenland’s ice morphs the tale after World War II towards knowledge. Gertner is brilliant describing how American Cold War might and money transformed the frozen waste into an air base and a science Camp Central (eventually crushed by the ice). Ice core drilling into the eighties is described in thrilling terms. When it was realized Greenland had begun melting, albeit slowly at first, airplane surveying at first, and then satellite blanketing, began to pursue astonishing science: how much ice is on Greenland and how is it changing? Gertner’s thrilling account of the 2010s includes images of cautious glaciologists stunned by the accelerating ice melt. Rising sea levels beckon, far faster than anyone predicted. “So we have very little time,” Gertner warns, “a few years, maybe a few decades.” Every thinking human should read “The Ice at the End of the World” tomorrow.

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