Arctic Dreams by Barry López
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Arctic has captivated people for centuries, it has held the promise of wealth, is a place of unspoilt beauty whilst being one of the toughest places to survive in. It has drawn explorers and writers, adventurers and artists who use the landscape for inspiration. But it is an incredibly harsh environment; it takes no prisoners.
The celestial light on an arctic cusp
This hostile landscape is a place that Lopez has returned to time and time again to discover the people and animals that navigate and migrate across this land of ice. The ecosystem there is finely balanced and part of his story tells us how these closely interlocked systems are so susceptible to external influences, in particular with regards to climate. As well as writing about his journeys, we learn about the discoveries that were made by sailors and explorers over the past four hundred years, many of whom lost their lives as sailed into the freezing oceans. He describes his scientific observations, packing in details about the millions of birds and animals in the region.
Jet-black guillemots streaking over the white ice
I loved the landscape parts of the book, his eye for details on the landscape and the people are really good, and the writing comes across so well you could be there watching the aurora borealis with him. His writing is clear and concise, without being too showy. Whilst I understand it is important to set the context of how we came to know this place, there was a little too much history for a travel and nature book really, and I would have preferred much more on the landscape. It was worth reading, but I have read better though.
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