Ryan Chapman's Reviews > Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica

Big Dead Place by Nicholas Johnson
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Jun 17, 07

bookshelves: lightweight, nonfiction
Read in June, 2007

Thought the book is terribly edited and sometimes poorly written, its subject--the quotidien life of an Antarctic base garbageman--is fascinating enough to make up for these deficiencies.

Johnson's book is filled with stories of the bureaucratic hell that is working for the National Science Foundation, a closed system of Catch-22s and prison psychology that adds a slight whiff of investigative journalism. An example: before the seasonal contractors leave, they have to pass a housing inspection of their dorms or risk a $500 fine, and they are not allowed to take time off work to clean. So when a cook is asked to clean his room again immediately or risk the fine, his bonus is cut for taking a work break to do so.

There are also small anecdotes littered throughout about the history of Antarctic travel, which is less about the struggle to survive and more about big egos in a big wasteland. If you have any interest in Antarctica as an adventure destination, choose another title; if you're interested in just how people can function in such a place, this is the book for you.
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