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On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica
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On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  67 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Travelogue, cultural meditation, and love story, On the Ice casts a panoramic view on one of the oddest communities in one of the most extreme places on earth. Sent to Antarctica as an observer by the National Science Foundation, Gretchen Legler arrives at McMurdo Station in midwinter, a time of -70 degree temperatures and months of near-total darkness. A lesbian strugglin ...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Milkweed Editions
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Susan Albert
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Nature writing is changing. The surest mark of that change is the fact that Gretchen Legler's book, On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, was chosen as the best book of environmental creative writing published in 2005-2006 by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

On the Ice is the story of what it means to find home, and heart, in the frozen place at the bottom of the world. With other artists, Gretchen Legler was offered the opportun
Trenton Judson
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Gretchen Legler's account of her experiences in Antarctica was an honest and fascinating experience. She doesn't hold anything back, and that makes her writing superb. It made me want to go there and experience it myself.
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this one. Something about Antarctica is intriguing to me...and clearly to others. Its a ripe topic for a journalist to review and write about. So, the opportunity is here for a great insiders look into a world that few have seen.

So here's the problem - the writing here is disjointed and jumbled. The "story" as it is, hops from place to place with little sense of time and place. This could have been a great scientific look at life in Antarctica, with details about the tools,
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Lovely writing, but I spent the second half of the book less focused on that writing than I was on why the writing wasn't doing much for me. I think it comes down to this: Legler lived in Antarctica for six months as a...writer in residence, I suppose. She was there to learn and there to write; as she notes, she's doing more or less the same thing the scientists there are doing (trying to understand Antarctica), but through a different medium.

I enjoyed the writing and enjoyed the details; in par
Emma Cooper
Dec 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I bought this book because it was just about the only one that came up when I searched for books on the hydroponic greenhouse at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Gretchen Legler spent a season 'On The Ice', as a writer-in-residence in Antarctica. She lovingly describes every aspect of her life there, from the beautiful scenery through to the colourful characters who live on the edge of the world.

There's not much mention of the McMurdo hydroponic greenhouse, which is a shame (for a keen gardener),
Kasey Jueds
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, nonfiction, memoir
This book is such a beautiful and unusual combination of things--part memoir, part nature-writing, part nonfiction account of Antarctica and the people who live at McMurdo Station. I love that it is so personal and so deeply-felt, and at the same time so outward-looking. Gretchen Legler explores so much in this relatively little book, and she does so absolutely honestly--there's her own personal family history, her heart, her fears and dreams and the way she falls in love with one of the other M ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
This was sort of 'meh'. To be sure, there are moments of writing in here where she is totally on the money--where she has powerful and moving words that are profound, and those moments were awesome.

Buuuut then there's the rest of it. The narrative was disjointed and felt without-direction. She goes to Antarctica writing about how she is a broken person and all this, but it turns out that the solution to this is finding a girlfriend. Okay. Love can be an incredible thing--but her writing there is
Really beautifully written--probably my favorite of the books I've read so far about modern life in Antarctica, and one I'll definitely read again at some point. I really appreciated Legler's introspection and honesty about who she was before she came, about who she was when she left, and about how those changes came about. And there's a real palpable sense of warmth and wonder in her words that I haven't often seen in other writings about Antarctica, which tend to focus so much more on the hard ...more
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'd still recommend starting with Legler's All the Powerful Invisible Things, but this is another strong collection. I really admire the way Legler handles self-examination differently from other nature writers--she's more interested in autobiography than phenomenology, which is a nice wrinkle.
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, lez-fic
I loved this book. It tells the story of an adventure I dream of having one day. The writing is beautiful and it's an engaging balance of nature writing, history, and emotionally intelligent memoir.
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
This was an interesting account of one woman's time spent in Antarctica, at McMurdo Station. Since she is a writer rather than a scientist, she brings more introspection to the book than I think another author might have. An enjoyable read.
Curtis Edmonds
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it
My review at
more personal reflection than collection of facts, but not in a bad way
Aug 08, 2013 added it
I own it, but I guess I never got thru it. reading the description given it didnt sound like I read it. So itis waiting for me to dig in again & see ifI can get through it this time.
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Saw Gretchen Legler at the 2012 AWP, and she was amazing. This is a beautiful little book, combination of memoir and an account of place. Honestly written.
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Since I knew nothing about the McMurdo station, reading this book was like a travelogue with someone's personal journey added.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction15
I can never read enough about cold and desolate places. And Legler tells it very well. Never allowing the sense of place to eclipse the perspective of a person witnessing the wild.
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