From avalanches to glaciers, from seals to snowflakes, and from Shackleton's expedition to The Year Without Summer, Bill Streever journeys through history, myth, geography, and ecology in a year-long search for cold -- real, icy, 40-below cold. In July he finds it while taking a dip in a 35-degree Arctic swimming hole; in September while excavating our planet's ancient and not so ancient ice ages; and in October while exploring hibernation habits in animals, from humans to wood frogs to bears.
A scientist whose passion for cold runs red hot, Streever is a wondrous guide: he conjures woolly mammoth carcasses and the ice-age Clovis tribe from melting glaciers, and he evokes blizzards so wild readers may freeze -- limb by vicarious limb.
Cold weather systems the earth needs to thrive is the subject of Streever's well-documented book, using all of the author's expertise from his field trips to the world's most frigid environments. Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, writes of the frostiest experience: "We fail to see cold for what it is: the absence of heat, the slowing of molecular motion, a sensation, a perception, a driving force." Rather than giving the reader a dry, academic lecture on snow, glaciers, wind-chill factors and icebergs, he delivers a poetic, anecdotal narrative complete with polar expeditions, Ice Age mysteries, igloos, permafrost and hailstorms. Two of the most fascinating segments are the arduous task of scientific reconstruction of past climates and the magical navigation of migratory birds to warmer lands. This is a wonderful collection of one man's first-rate observations and commentary about the history and importance of cold to the earth and its occupants.