No Man’s Land
An Antarctic Journey of Discovery
A playful, compelling exploration of Antarctica, past and present
In No Man’s Land, historian Adwin de Kluyver takes the reader on a captivating journey of discovery to the South Pole. With infectious storytelling pleasure and a good dose of creativity, he recounts how people have explored, depicted and made use of this cold continent over the centuries. To do so, De Kluyver brings to life a motley collection of historical characters: men, women and even the animals who have played a key role in creating our picture of Antarctica.
Following in the footsteps of a man who fascinates him – not one of the traditional ‘heroes’ of polar discovery but a modest, ‘failed’ adventurer from Japan, Nobu Shirase – De Kluvyer joins the crew of a historic three-master. As he sails through the coastal waters of Antarctica, he records the curiosities he comes across along the way, such as penguin highways, tins of spam and dated pinups, and a pub with a collection of bras. A small fly-away piece of red plastic comes to signify human impact on this fragile region.
The author intersperses the account of his own modern-day journey with the history of Antarctic exploration. But instead of retelling the stories we already know about Shackleton, Amundsen and Scott, he seeks refreshing new angles. For example, a species-collecting trip taken by naturalist and grouch Johann Renhold Forster is narrated with great humour. We run side by side with the husky teams on the competing exploratory missions and learn of their mostly tragic demises. We revisit Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and discover both how it was written and the life cycle of an albatross. Robert Falcon Scott’s merry widow, Kathleen, parties her way on the international polar explorer circuit. We spend time with Jennie Darlington and Edith Ronne, the first women to live on an Antarctic base station in 1947, and we learn of noxious attempts to claim and abuse Antarctica’s riches.
This page-turning treasure chest of a book affords readers an irresistible adventure to a virtually unknown part of the world where nobody lives, and which officially still belongs to no one.