White-Out by James Vance Marshall

December 11, 2007
2 min. read

This is a book I happened on by chance. I picked it out of the new book section of the library by the title and checked it out after reading the inside cover. I’m glad that I did. While I only rate it 4 out of 5, it was an interesting book and worth reading.

The book is centered on telling the story of a Royal Navy officer and his trials to survive against impossible odds. The main story is set during the Second World War on the continent of Antarctica. The British Royal Navy sends a small force to establish a weather station while also carrying out a top-secret mission. A German U-Boat intercepts the periodic weather forecasts and is able to triangulate the stations position. The station is attacked when the protagonist and a junior man are off taking core samples. Upon returning, they find the station totally destroyed and the commander barely clinging onto life. As they race for the northern peninsula, the adventure begins. If they don’t make it in time, the ice will make rescue impossible. And a winter without a proper shelter is impossible to survive in this harsh continent. In the end, only one man survives. He claims to have lost his memory of the events before his rescue and he longs to return. Then we are able to learn why.

I have often wondered why anyone would want to visit or live in Antarctica. It seems like a barren place, devoid of life. But this book has shown me the beauty and wonder of that most untouched of our continents. I did not realize the amount of life existing during the summer months, that can exceed almost all other places on earth during the peak. It was truly a memorable story that was as shocking at time as it was touching.

There is only one complaint that I have about the book. It seems quite petty, but it was a major detraction as I was really getting into it. The setting is 1942. I am in a mindset of World War Two. All surrounding are described with the technology available then. The tent material wasn’t modern day synthetics. However, the penguins jumping over a 5 feet ridge are described as “jump jets”. This really hit me wrong. I was taken out of the 1940’s mindset and propelled back to modern day, with one poorly chosen metaphor. This is a minor issue and you will certainly enjoy the book.

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