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The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  701 ratings  ·  143 reviews
Greenland: a remote, mysterious island five times the size of California but with a population of just 56,000. The ice sheet that covers it is 700 miles wide and 1,500 miles long, and is composed of nearly three quadrillion tons of ice. For the last 150 years, explorers and scientists have sought to understand Greenland--at first hoping that it would serve as a gateway to ...more
Hardcover, 418 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by Random House
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Diane S ☔
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
3.5 Impeccably presented and in an interesting manner, the author begins with a lost colony on Greenland, and the early explorers who wanted to cross the frozen middle of Greenland. Hazardous, so many deaths, attempts, but eventually much was discovered. Scientific exploration was accomplished at this time as well. Even early on it was determined that if Greenland's ice melted, the sea levels would rise by 25 ft. Amazingly given the primitive tools of the time, it would later be determined he wa ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This book has three themes, all centered on Greenland’s ice sheet 1,500 miles long, nearly 700 miles wide and up to 10,000 feet deep holding three quadrillion tons of ice. Gertner begins with adventure describing explorations of Greenland’s ice covered interior from the 1880’s through the 1930s. In this part Gertner gives us the personal stories of the explorers, the risks they took and the hardships they endured. The second section of the book skips to the late forties following WWII. Explorati ...more
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Arctic exploration was extremely dangerous and took some highly dedicated/obsessive personalities to undergo the arduous trips necessary to learn about this massive ice island. Gertner documents these first expeditions in Part 1—“Explorations”. There were Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup (1888-89), Robert Peary (1891-1892), Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen (multiple times between 1912-1921), Alfred Wegener (19112-13 and 1930) and others that made the trip before motorized vehicles made the tas ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book. Part 1 was a look at the early exploration of Greenland by European and American adventurers. Part 2 was a more scientific look at what the ice of Greenland has revealed about the history of the global climate, the changes seen in the past, and what it has revealed about our potential future. Engagingly written, but I would have liked a bit more on the climate change issue.
Vicky Hunt
A Microcosm of Glaciology: And The Politics That Pay

The book that needed to be written; The Ice at the End of the World is that book that briefly surveys the history of Greenland’s exploration, and the work that is done in those research stations we know exist, but know little about. I have read a large number of books written by and about polar explorers and expeditions. But, I have not yet found good books on what is happening in those research stations and in the field of glaciology. In the f
Robert Sheard
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this fascinating. It's part explorer history, part scientific laboratory. It's really a history about how we know what we know (and don't know) about Greenland and the Arctic.

Of course, in the end, it's frightening because we've known for decades what was happening with climate change and humanity refuses to act morally or selflessly to mitigate the impending changes that the loss of the Greenland ice sheets and mega-glaciers in Antarctica will bring about. It's the same selfish impulses
Carly Friedman
This is a fascinating book that covers the long history of the exploration of and research on Greenland's ice. It starts with early explorations of the area. What crazy adventures! I cannot imagine anything worse that trekking across all that ice. This section definitely reminds me of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

Then the book turns to early research on glacial layers and historical temperature changes. Like the early expeditions into the area, the scientists were really charting u
Susan Paxton
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an important book. Deniers argue that climate change is a recent and invented or, conversely, a "natural" phenomenon. Jon Gertner spent several years working on this book to prove that the current climate change is none of those things, but in fact has been evident for many decades and is human-caused. The arena he selected for his tale is Greenland, the world's largest island, covered in a sheet of ice that is in places several thousands of feet thick, and his method is looking closely ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a survey of the scientific exploration and research of Greenland’s glaciers over the past century and a half. Through courageous explorers and dedicated scientists, this research has helped humans understand how polar ice impacts global meteorology and geology. As the survey moves to the present, this research is revealing alarming facts about climate change and devastating predictions about the melting of these vast fields of ice in the near future.
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a line: One part history of the early efforts to explore Greenland's vast ice sheets, one part history of how paleoclimatology was born.

My reading journeys have taken me to Greenland recently, but instead of reading more about the Viking settlements there, I wanted to read about another tribe: the explorers and scientists who willingly endured months of supremely hostile terrain for both glory and science. The Ice at the End of the World is one half history of Greenland’s early exploration,
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read an advance reader copy of Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World, in uncorrected proof ebook, provided to me by Penguin / Random House through netgalley, in return for promising to write an honest review. The book is scheduled for release on June 11, 2019. Jon Gertner is an American writer, the author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (2012), which I have not yet read, and a longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine.

The book first fol
This is a fan-freaking-tastic, though somewhat depressing, book. I’ve long been fascinated by the coldest regions of our planet, and of the intrepid explorers who have mapped them, and the hardy native groups who have made these areas their home for generations. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into with this book, but it quickly drew me in and held me captive for 300 pages.

Gertner begins his book with a look at modern scientific research being done on this huge island covered by ice, but
Phil Boyd
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
100 years of exploring the ice covering the top of the world. Gives a great look at how glaciology has advanced thanks to the studies done in Greenladn (in part because of the Cold War). Also provides some context for people trying to understand how melting ice sheets are going to create sea level rise and just how much of a problem it is.
Jacqueline Worboys
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Greenland’s remote, mysterious island, with its tiny population, has always attracted the lure of travel by those who wonder and wander. Gertner writes a clear and enticing history of how, in the past one hundred and fifty years, scientists and explorers have sought to learn more about this gateway to the North Pole. The reader cannot help but marvel at the determination or foolhardiness that drove men to walk across the treacherous landscape in life-threatening weather. In the second part of th ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, nature, history
I had hoped to learn much more about current Arctic research: the people, the techniques, the results. Toward the end, there are some details about why ice-core drilling is tricky. But the large majority of the book focuses on older history, especially on early trips across Greenland. This is fine, just not what I had expected.

> Years later, Freuchen would remember these moments—the harsh weather, the dwindling provisions, and Rasmussen's inexplicable good humor. "Nothing draws men closer than
Donna DRB
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this fascinating and important book, beautifully written by New York Times bestselling author and long-time friend Jon Gertner. After finishing it, I had a real understanding of not only Greenland's past (including jaw-dropping accounts of exploration) but also Greenland's current and future impact on our world. A must-read book! ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm glad I learned about Greenland but man, I had to prop my eyelids open for long stretches. I appreciate how Gertner frames the explorer stories, keeping the native peoples at front of mind, but a 300+ page newspaper article isn't quite my thing.

Full thoughts in my Booktube Prize vlog:
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Most of this book details the history of early explorers on Greenland which was certainly interesting and also distressing. Reading about death, near death, having to eat their horses and dogs that pulled their sleds for food and continual struggle to survive was almost unbearable for me, but does show our strong desire to explore our world and challenge ourselves. Also this provides a sharp contrast to how much the climate and conditions have changed over 200 years.

The information from centurie
Kaitlyn Joy
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, 2019-books
I received an Advanced Review Copy of The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner from the publisher Random House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What It’s About: A history of glacierology, with scientific fact interluded in.

I'll be honest, I really didn't love this. I'm a scientist but know nothing about Glaciers and Greenland and so was excited to see the implications of global warming but I really fou
Nov 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is almost two books in one. We cover the early days of Greenland exploring, where there death defying treks using skis, dogsleds, and Icelandic horses, involved some scientific observation but mostly just old-school "because it was there" exploration. It's fun to read about although you'll definitely have your feelings about the explorers, some of whom were total jerks to the native Inuit population. Then we morph into Greenland exploration that is less death defying (in the age of rad ...more
This book was a history of Greenlandic exploration, initially for the sake of exploration, and then for the sake of science. As we followed the history closer to the present, we got more of the science, what it tells us about what is happening to Greenland's ice sheet (hint: it's melting), and what the impact of global warning and ice melt will do for the future of this planet and the world as we know it.

The line that struck me most in this book was about how rarely in the history of the world
Charles Fried
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want an excellent introduction to climate change this is the book. There are great stories of the early explorers of Greenland, as well as recent scientific expeditions. This book is suitable for both scientists and non-scientists, full of anecdotes, and people, and stories, as well as scientific material clearly and simply explained. This is a frightening book. It scares me that we have climate change deniers, dangerous idiots, running our country. They should be required to read this bo ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating! There was so much information about Greenland, none of which I knew, and I found myself getting deeper into caring about this earth and its future. Never thought I’d get so interested but I did and I think it’s because the writing was so good. Beautiful descriptions of scenery, life on this island and of those who came to explore it. If you aren’t that knowledgeable about the ice sheet, you will be after you finish this book and you will want to read all you can ab ...more
Andy Kindle
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The most impactful part of this book was that in the stories it told about the history of Greenland exploratory by adventurers and scientists, it told the story of the ice sheet's changing climate. There was a clear progression throughout the stories, without the author pointing it out, of a steadily warming climate as explorations spanned decades. Most poignant was the first science settlement dug into the glacier and the increasing pressure of accumulating snow and ice collapsing roofs to curr ...more
Mar 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the exploration of Greenland, and how it became the laboratory in which scientists learned to read ice cores to understand the climates of the past. The early explorers of Greenland like Wegener and Rasmussen were adventurers as much as scientists. I was happy to run into Alfred Wegener again, because my mother told me about him and his plate tectonics theory when I was about ten years old, and I did a sixth grade science repo ...more
Sometimes you simply have to wonder about these men and women who are determined to explore the far reaches of whatever part of the world that catches their fancy - be it the unexplored depths of the sea, the wilds of Africa or the Amazon or the bitter cold of Antarctica and Greenland.

This follows the expeditions of several of the major explorers of Greenland from Fridtjof Nansen's trip across the southern tip of Greenland in 1888 through Peary's northern explorations in 1892 along with Rasmusse
Jean Bonilla
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a vital warning of the state of our world. Gertner writes well, without a brinksmanship tone, but putting the accelerating pace of the melting ice caps in the context of history and geological time. He does it all in a wonderful evocative style that captures the frozen wasteland of Greenland.

Maybe we have two hundred years; maybe we have two decades. While we don’t know the answer to that question, we do know that it’s happening. If you believe climate change is a natural phenomenon, we ha
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a truly fascinating and gripping account of the exploration of Greenland by first explorers and then scientists, and how each built up the groundwork for the next. Gertner builds up the case brick by brick to the unassailable conclusion that global warming presents, as a NYT reviewer wrote, "an existential threat" to our planet. Other Goodreaders have well described the book already. I would note that Gertner does an excellent job of explaining some complex material clearly but without c ...more
Leo Walsh
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
An in-depth read about the exploration of the Arctic regions of Greenland. I was expecting a little more science, but instead, this is more historical, focusing on the personality of the "rugged explorers" who braved death to reach the North Pole in pre-modern times. But with this emphasis on Jack London-style adventurers and harrowing treks, the science gets lost in the shuffle until the end, where Global Warming is addressed.

I'm going 3-stars. Mostly because I was expecting science, how the b
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and the way it furthered my knowledge about the history of exploration and scientific experimentation in Greenland, as well as the current studies into climate change. The first part of the book, especially the Alfred Wegener parts, was my favorite, and the end was very good too. The middle part of the book, about the drilling through the ice sheet, was pretty slow. Overall, though, an excellent book.
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(From his website)

I’m a book author and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and I tend to describe myself as both a journalist and historian. In addition to the Sunday Magazine, my writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Wired, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Technology Review and Fast Company. Usually I write about science, nature,

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