THE CRYSTAL DESERT: SUMMERS IN ANTARCTICA is the story of life's tenacity on the coldest of Earth's continents. It tells of the explorers who discovered Antarctica, of the whalers and sealers who despoiled it, and of the scientists who are deciphering its mysteries. In beautiful, lucid prose, David G. Campbell chronicles the desperately short summers on the Antarctic Peninsula. He presents a fascinating portrait of the evolution of life in Antarctica and also of the evolution of the continent itself.
With a poet's ear and a scientist's eye, biologist Campbell brings the Antarctic to vivid, teeming life in this eloquent, comprehensive natural and social history of the ice-clad continent below the Southern Ocean. Over the course of three austral summers in the 1980s, Campell explored life ``beyond the edge of the habitable earth,'' spending the last visit, in 1987, at a Brazilian research station--nicknamed Little Copacabana--on Admiralty Bay studying parasites in seals, fish and crustaceans. Punctuated with his personal responses (in the clarity of light after a sleet storm, he notes, ``It is as if I have suddenly acquired the vision of an eagle''), early chapters detail local geology and botany, and chronicle the frenetic summer activity of penguins and seals; skuas, terns and albatrosses; plankton and krill. Accounts of the area's discovery and its exploitation in the seal- and whale-hunting expeditions that thrived 100 years ago are enlivened with reference to letters, diaries and other first-hand reports. Polished and passionate, with an immediate quality, this geographic portrait earned Campbell Houghton Mifflin's Literary Fellowship. Author tour.