Wow! This is one of the few books I've ever reviewed that I couldn't put down. This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2010 explores different careers in the Antarctic using examples of real scientists in the field. The book's overarching theme is exemplified in a quote from one of the highlighted scientists: “I think that science is like a playpen: research is fantastic.”
The first chapter provides a great background on the actual working conditions in Antarctica and the history of early exploration. Each subsequent chapter examines a specific scientist who works there and includes a special section entitled, “So you want to be a …” The scholastic requirements as well as the average salary are included. Descriptions are presented of what each scientist does and the research necessary in their field in the extreme Antarctic environment.
Interesting facts are sprinkled throughout the book. For instance, did you know the South Pole sits on a 2-mile thick ice sheet that moves about 10 meters each year and that the sign that marks the South Pole must be moved every January 1st? Or that McMurdo Station’s volcanic rock heats up, causing so much melting that the station is dubbed “McMudhole”? The deepest ice core taken from Antarctica is more than 2 miles deep and more than 800,000 years old. A Weddell seal can stay under water for up to an hour and dive in the deepest part of the ocean because of myoglobin that is found in its muscles. Their bodies are mostly muscle from the neck down. These animals are being studied because myoglobin is useful in helping patients recovering from strokes and heart attacks. And there's more—the frozen lakes are seven times saltier than the ocean and yet are filled with microbes!
Highlights of the book include an extensive glossary and chapter notes, many quotes from the actual scientists, a further reading section, a list of internet addresses, and an index. The publishers suggest the book is for students in grades five and up or ages 10 and up. The reading flows so easily that younger students with an interest in science would enjoy the book as well. I highly recommend this book for students who want to explore scientific fields as well as increase their knowledge of extreme environments on Earth. It would also make a great read aloud for younger children to stimulate their interest in science.