Research Blog Antarctica #47

Non-fiction: John C. Behrendt: the Ninth Circle (2005, University of New Mexico Press)

Behrendt is a researcher who has worked in the various American Antarctic programs since the Fifties, and as such his writing about the actual scientific work on the continent is very interesting. His earlier book, Innocents on the Ice, was excellent, perhaps because the presence of the notoriously difficult station commander Finn Ronne, who’s presence gave the narrative a villain and a lot of emotional beats.

The Ninth Circle is composed much like the earlier book, from journal entries and later commentary and explanations. Here, however, the result is a lackluster jumble. The book lacks the wide-eyed wonder of Innocents on the Ice, and the writer seems less willing to observe fellow Antarctic workers and their foibles. The book lacks the necessary detail to make the repetitive fieldwork seem interesting.

Bonus points for the great collection of maps at the back of the book, and for a title which doesn’t feature the words “ice” or “Antarctica”. It refers to the icy ninth circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.