AT THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: A History of the Polar Regions

Kieran Mulvaney, Author
Kieran Mulvaney, Author . Island $24.95 (300p) ISBN 978-1-55963-908-8
Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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The Arctic and Antarctic remain a source of mystery despite centuries of exploration. Here, Mulvaney, a freelance journalist based in Anchorage, Alaska, offers a comprehensive natural and human history of the two regions, from the earliest legends through 18th- and 19th-century European exploration to more recent issues like oil and gas drilling, tourism, ozone depletion and global warming. He points to what he terms "interweaving cycles in which exploration leads to exploitation," citing massive industries built around marine animals from the Antarctic, including fur seals killed for their pelts, and blue, fin and humpback whales, which supplied oil and other products. Compelling statistics demonstrate that these industries nearly wiped out the target species. Mulvaney also documents the political maneuvering behind a seven-nation treaty that accords the Antarctic protection as a "world park." In contrast, the Arctic has experienced heavy oil drilling, which Mulvaney recounts, paying particular attention to its environmental consequences, such as the highly publicized Exxon Valdez oil spill, which he examines in depth. He also considers the effects of the Cold War, nuclear testing and pollution on the Arctic environment and its native people. Through extensive research and engaging writing, Mulvaney supports his contention that "the long shadow of humanity has extended, for better and for worse, to the very ends of the Earth." (June)

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