by Kimbra Cutlip
The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic & the Antarctic
Editors: Elizabeth Kolbert & Francis Spufford
Details: 448 pages, $29.95, cloth, 2007
The polar regions have captivated human imagination since early explorers first ventured into those inhospitable lands at the ends of the Earth. Extremes of cold, darkness, and remoteness approaching that of another planet have tested the limits of human endurance and challenged our technological prowess. Though seemingly resolute in their indifference to our inquisition, the poles are not immune to humans’ presence on the Earth. The impacts of human activity are evident as ancient ice sheets melt and polar bears and penguins lose ground to rising seas and limited prey.
It is with these opposing images of polar insularity and fragility that the editors selected the pieces in this anthology, The Ends of the Earth. Published to mark the International Polar Year 2007-2008, the book is divided into two sections, one on the Arctic, and one on the Antarctic. At 200-plus pages each, both are arguably books in and of themselves.