New book Science on Ice offers penguins and more [video]

By Hugh Powell
December 14, 2011

In addition to our suggestions for 12 gifts that give back, there’s a gorgeous new book on the shelves called Science on Ice, by Chris Linder. It’s the story of four scientific expeditions to the polar regions—and the video above previews the first chapter, on the life of Antarctica’s Adelie Penguins. In addition to Linder’s descriptions, the video features a few comments from yours truly (including my description of what a colony of 500,000 penguins smells like). I was the lucky science writer who got to accompany Linder to Antarctica in 2007 and in 2011, and I wrote the Science on Ice chapter about penguins.

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The book tells the story of scientific research at the extremes of the earth: at the southernmost penguin colony in the world; during spring thaw in the Bering Sea; in the unexplored depths of the Arctic Ocean; and amid the blue lakes and rushing moulins that sit atop the Greenland ice sheet. It’s a picture book, stuffed from cover to cover with Linder’s signature photos, which are at once beautiful and insightful in their illustration of scientists at work in their surroundings.

But it’s also a detailed telling of science and nature, with each chapter recounted by the science writer who accompanied Linder and the scientists into the field (freelancer Helen Fields, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution writers Lonny Lippsett and Amy Nevala). In the telling, they recapture some of the spirit of adventure that still inspires scientists, but that seems to have vanished from the stereotype of white-coated men wielding beakers.

We hope Science on Ice helps recalibrate that image. And if the taste of wildness—or the odor of penguins—inspires a few young people to pursue science themselves, so much the better. We’ll look for them in Linder’s next set of photos.

(To learn more about the journey, visit the Polar Discovery website or like Science on Ice on Facebook to see extra photos and footage.)

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