Saturday, December 21, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Deacon Leeds and the Pyramid of Symbols by Grant Morris

Deacon Leeds and the Pyramid of Symbols by Grant Morris is a science fiction and fantasy novel set in modern day Antarctica.  The book is geared towards a teenage audience with the main character, Deacon Leeds, being a teenager spending his winter break with his dad, who is doing research in Antarctica.  This is a fascinating read that goes back and forth between the perspective of a 70,000 year old civilization in the South that uses magic symbols on a pyramid and modern day Antarctica when they find the golden pyramid when drilling in the ice.  It is a great mix of the realistic world of
Antarctica and the fantasy world related to the pyramid colliding.  In particular, it is nice that it uses real information about how Antarctica is now, such as mentioning that dogs are no longer allowed on the continent, which gives the book a layer of realism even though it is partly fantasy.

This book is the first in The Pyramid Adventure series.  Here's hoping more come soon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Diamonds in Antarctica?

I have read about minerals and the threat of the exploitation in Antarctica before, but I was quite surprised how my Antarctic news alert today was full of articles about diamonds in Antarctica.  The Antarctic Treaty does prohibit mining, but there is geological research allowed and they discovered kimberlite, which is a volcanic rock known to often bear diamonds.  Actual diamonds were not found, though.  Seems like there is a reasonable chance there would be diamonds in Antarctica somewhere with the volcanic activity, but the remoteness still makes it not worthwhile commercially beyond just the fact that it would be illegal.

Related Links

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Something to Tell the Grandcows by Eileen Spinelli

 Something to Tell the Grandcows by Eileen Spinelli is a historical fiction picture book written about a cow’s experience as part of Admiral Byrd’s 1933-35 expedition to Antarctica. The book does not provide much historical information other than being loosely based on the fact that Byrd did take cows with him. However, it does provide an interesting perspective of the cow experiencing the cold, 24 hours of sunlight in the Antarctic summer, and 24 hours of darkness in the Antarctic winter. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. This can be a good book for engaging animal lovers into the topic of Antarctica, especially its climate.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Rescue in Antarctica by Emily Sohn

Rescue in Antarctica: An Isabel Soto Geography Adventure by Emily Sohn is a graphic novel appropriate for grades 3 to 5. This book is part science fiction with the main characters traveling through time and space through a portal. This book can also be partly considered contemporary realistic fiction because it is mainly about a rescue operation that is similar to how researchers may end up stranded and rescued in Antarctica today. This book is a good selection to introduce children interested in graphic novels to the topic of Antarctica. The book also provides a quick introduction to the concept of climate change and how it is affecting the continent.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Tom Crean Ice Man, the Adventures of an Irish Antarctic Hero by Michael Smith

Tom Crean: Ice Man, the Adventures of an Irish Antarctic Hero by Michael Smith is a biography of Tom Crean. The book focuses on his experiences as part of three Antarctic expeditions during his career with the British Navy. This book is appropriate for grades 3 to 5. This book is a good biography that covers the life of an early Antarctic explorer that is not as well known individually as Scott or Shackleton, but was part of two of the most famous Antarctic expeditions (Scott’s 1910-1913 Terra Nova South Pole expedition and Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Endurance expedition). Being about a lesser-known explorer might make this book appealing to students that want to learn more about Antarctic explorers.

This book also provides an alternative perspective that other resources on the expeditions do not always cover, especially in regards to Crean not getting selected for the final push to the South Pole with Scott after getting within 150 miles and their return party almost facing death like Scott’s party did. The book may also be considered multicultural in that Crean was Irish and it discusses him not talking much about his polar experiences later in life because he felt it made him too connected to Britain in a time that Ireland was fighting for independence.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Penguin Book Review: Antarctic Antics A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra

Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra is a picture book featuring a variety of poems about Emperor penguins and their life in the Antarctic. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. This book has painting style illustrations that rather realistically portray the penguins, the actions, and the feelings that the poems describe, such as penguins hatching and taking their first swim. The poetry makes it a great read aloud book that could also be used to inspire students to develop performances to act out the poems. The book may also be useful for helping open discussion about feelings children may also identify with such as doing something new like the penguins going swimming for the first time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Ann and Liv Cross Antarctica: A Dream Come True! by Zoe Alderfer Ryan

Ann and Liv Cross Antarctica: A Dream Come True! by Zoe Alderfer Ryan book is a brief biography of the American Ann Bancroft and Norwegian Liv Arnesen’s experience of fulfilling their dream of crossing Antarctica, which was the first time women skied across the continent. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. This book is an inspirational story about determination and following dreams. This book is unique for providing a perspective on female accomplishments in Antarctica, since the literature on Antarctic explorers is mostly about men.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Penguin Book Review: The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes by Janet Perlman

In The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes by Janet Perlman, penguins become the main characters in a modern twist on a classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. This is a picture book appropriate for grades K to 3. This book is a rare selection with an Antarctic theme that can somewhat fit the traditional literature genre. It is also a good selection for discussing topics such as fact vs. fiction (realistic penguins, but unrealistic clothing and setting), peer pressure (not wanting to be thought stupid for pointing out the new clothes are non-existent), and honesty (the young penguin telling the somewhat harsh truth about the clothes do not exist).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Who Counts the Penguins? Working in Antarctica by Mary Meinking

Who Counts the Penguins? Working in Antarctica by Mary Meinking is an informational picture book for grades 2 to 4. This book provides an overview of different jobs in Antarctica including highlighting what different types of scientists do such as glaciologists studying climate history using ice core samples and astronomers studying the stars. This book gives students a general overview of what jobs there are in Antarctica as well as what different types of scientists research. This book also provides a good explanation of how planes and ships deliver people and goods to Antarctica.

Antarctic research iced even though U.S. government shutdown ended

October is when news stories about Antarctica tend to begin to pick up with the summer research season beginning.  As usual the number of stories in my Google news alert for Antarctica has increased this month, but most of it is not about the different research projects being undertaken this season.  Instead it has mostly been about the U.S. Antarctic bases being put into caretaker status and the start of the research season put on hold because of the U.S. government shutdown affecting funding for the National Science Foundation.

Now the government shutdown has ended, but since the window for setting up and beginning research is so small in Antarctica research cannot just be continued as usual.  While the Antarctic program is no longer in only caretaker status, the resources are not available in time for all originally planned research to be supported.  This leads to some research teams being told they have to wait until next year, which will affect some data of projects that are in the middle of multi-year research programs.  While it certainly affects the data and the people that arranged their lives to be in Antarctica for the research season, at least some of the U.S. Antarctic programs will get to happen this season.

Related Articles:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: The Mystery in Icy Antarctica: The Frozen Continent by Carole Marsh

The Mystery in Icy Antarctica: The Frozen Continent by Carole Marsh is a contemporary realistic fiction book. In this book a girl age 10 and a boy age 7 visit McMurdo Station in Antarctica with their grandparents. This book is appropriate for grades 3 to 5. This book is good for drawing in young readers to learn a little about what life is like at a modern Antarctic research station from main characters that are around the same age as the target audience. The book is particularly good for reluctant readers or those just starting to read chapter books, as it has illustrations that can make the reading experience more fun. In particular, the use of sound words being done illustratively can add to the excitement and draw the reader’s attention more into the story, such as when the ice is cracking and an illustration says CRAACK! with crack lines around it (p. 5). This book also involves a mystery of disappearing penguins, which might help readers in grades 3 to 5 be “challenged to use their mental ability to seek solutions to problems” (Travers & Travers, 2008, p. 254). The built-in book club sections at the back of the book are also useful for encouraging thoughtful discussion of the book and learning more about Antarctica.

Travers, B. E., & Travers, J. F.  (2008). Children’s literature: A developmental perspective (1st ed.).  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica by Sandra Markle

Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica by Sandra Markle is an informational and biographical picture book appropriate for grades 3 to 5. This book discusses the history of Robert Falcon Scott’s expeditions to Antarctica in the early 1900s with a focus on the animals he saw and used. Photo, sketches, and watercolors fill the pages to illustrate the animals and expeditions’ experiences.

Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica may be useful for engaging students with a naturalistic learning preference into the historical topic of Robert Falcon Scott and early exploration in Antarctica. Additionally, it is a good resource for both social studies and science curriculum use, as it is actually specifically designed to meet key concepts outlined by the National Council for the Social Studies and National Academy of Sciences (p. 6).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica by Jonathan London

Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica by Jonathan London is an informational picture book that provides a brief story about an emperor penguin’s life from coming out of his egg to being a dad carrying the egg through the winter himself. This book provides K to 2 learners with an introduction to emperor penguins with text that is appropriate for their reading level and appealing realistic watercolor pictures that work with the text to enhance the story.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Antarctica Journey to the Pole by Peter Lerangis

Antarctica: Journey to the Pole by Peter Lerangis is a historical fiction novel for grades 4 to 5.  In this novel two teenage boys are among the crew for a 1909 American expedition led by their father. The expedition is attempting to be the first to reach the South Pole and features references to real Antarctic explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

This book could be an interesting multicultural education literature selection, as it includes a main character that is Inuit briefly dealing with racism and a Greek dog handler that speaks broken English. Thus, this book might be something that English language learners may relate to.

The book also has content that could lead to discussions that are relevant to issues the students might be going through or relate to. For example, the two teenage boys are stepbrothers who have both lost their moms, so it could be useful for discussing loss. There are also some scenes of the younger boy being mocked, which could be used to spark discussion on bullying.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller

Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller is an informational picture book about a modern day marine ecologist celebrating Hanukkah by making a menorah out of sea urchins during a dive in Antarctica and later lighting a travel menorah to celebrate at McMurdo with other Jewish researchers. This is a good multicultural book for grades K to 2. This book also provides a brief introduction to diving in Antarctica and what questions researchers are trying to answer about sea urchins.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Here is Antarctica by Madeleine Dunphy

Here is Antarctica by Madeleine Dunphy is a poetic picture book that introduces how the animals and ice are interconnected in the Antarctic ecosystem. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. This book is a good one for learners that enjoy repeating text, as it slowly adds a new line before it repeats the previously introduced lines. This feature also makes it a good book for early readers. This book was also selected for the 2010 Nautilus Book Award for Children’s Picture Books (Preschool-Grade 2).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Ice Wreck by Lucille Recht Penner

Ice Wreck by Lucille Recht Penner is an illustrated chapter book about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. This book is an easy read about Shackleton’s expedition for the lower grades as well as for reluctant or struggling readers. This book is also more visually appealing for those that want a more colorful representation of the expedition instead of just the historic black and white photos from the expedition (some of these are still included).

Antarctic Book Review: Can You Survive Antarctica? by Rachel Teresa Hanel

Can You Survive Antarctica?: An Interactive Survival Adventure by Rachel Teresa Hanel is a choose your own adventure style book.  It is both historical fiction and contemporary realistic fiction with options to be an adventurer in the race to the South Pole in 1911-12, part of the first team of women crossing Antarctica in the 1990s, or work with modern day researchers in Antarctica. The book contains historical and modern photos of the actual expeditions, animals, and bases, which can make the book more appealing for reluctant readers as well as visual learners. This book is appropriate for grades 3 to 5. This book is useful for helping students learn about survival in Antarctica, especially how it continues to be dangerous in modern times. It also also encourages critical thinking skills through allowing students to make choices about what to do next.

Antarctic Book Review: A for Antarctica by Jonathan Chester

A for Antarctica by Jonathan Chester is an informational picture book that features a few short blurbs about topics related to Antarctica that start with each letter of the alphabet. This book is appropriate for grades K to 2. Photographs accompany the topics making it visually engaging as well as help further understanding of what exactly the item is, such as the difference between what a regular compass looks like and a sun compass. While this book is slightly dated with its inclusion of dogs (now banned from the continent and book makes it seem they live there), it is still a good introduction to the continent with its coverage of animals, gear used, and research activities that go on in Antarctica. This book is useful for introducing learners to the continent in an appealing alphabet book format that might encourage them to learn more through other resources made available to them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Antarctic Book Review: Life Under Ice by Mary M. Cerullo

Life Under Ice by Mary M. Cerullo is a picture book that provides a brief overview of the animals and climate of Antarctica with the main focus being on the life under the ice. The book also provides some insight on how scientists work in Antarctica, especially the divers. This book is geared towards grades 3 to 5. The use of photography alongside descriptive text is the main highlight of the book. Having the photographs of actual Antarctic life makes this book more appealing to visual learners as well as those that may be weaker readers while the descriptive text provides similar fulfillment for learners that are more linguistically inclined. For example, when discussing how penguins warm themselves by turning their black backs to the sun and cool themselves by turning their white fronts to the sun there are two full page photos that are a great example of them warming themselves in one and cooling themselves in the other.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chinese fishing vessel that caught fire has now sunk in the Antarctic

Last week the Kai Xin caught fire in the Antarctic and the crew was evacuated from the ship.  The Chilean government had already sent a tugboat to try to tow it back to port or at least monitor and combat the potential environmental impact of fuel spillage.  However, before the tugboat got there the ship had sunk.  The tugboat will still monitor for fuel spillage, but it appears that there is not much chance of an issue from fuel because the fire is thought to have burned off most if not all of what was aboard.

Source:  Chile says Chinese factory fishing ship that burned off Antarctica has sunk with no one aboard (Washington Post)

Related Posts:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chilean Tug Boat Sent to Chinese Ship on Fire in Antarctica

Back on April 17, 2013, the Chinese factory fishing ship Kai Xin caught fire and the crew was evacuated to a Norwegian ship.  The Chilean military and government have been working with the Chinese embassy in Chile to help minimize the ecological impact of the ship.  On Friday, a tug boat was dispatched by Chile's Third Navy Zone equipped to deal with the potential pollution issue of the ship being abandoned and on fire in the Antarctic waters.

Source: Chile sends ship to Antarctica to prevent post-fire pollution by Thomas Whittle

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chinese fishing ship fire in Antarctica

Yesterday, the crew of 97 was rescued from the Chinese factory fishing ship, Kai Xin, by a Norwegian vessel Juvel.  The ship was abandoned due to the fire, but it appears that at least for now it is not sinking.  Chile's Air Force has flown over it and will fly over it again to check its condition.  Chile's military is coordinating to try to minimize the ecological impact of the fishing vessel in the Antarctica including potentially using a tugboat from Puntas Arenas to tow it back to port if the Kai Xin remains seaworthy.

Source: 97 saved from Chinese ship afire off Antarctic by Marianela Jarroud, Associated Press

Saturday, March 30, 2013

China plans to set up two new bases by 2015

A few years ago I remember reading about China planning to set up a fourth research base sometime between 2015 and 2030.  Today, though, I read an article about China planning to not only add their fourth Antarctic base by 2015, but also a fifth one.  One of the new stations will a year round station in Victoria Land and the other will be a summer season station located between their current bases of Zhongshan and Kunlun.

Related Articles:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Ever Whale Skelton Found in Antarctic Waters

While I do not find it particularly surprising that the first whale skeleton was only recently found in Antarctic waters, I did find it interesting that only six naturally occurring ones have ever been found on the sea floor worldwide.  It was also interesting to read about how the whale skeletons are part of the ocean's circle of life in that they become reefs.  In this particular case they actually found nine new species on the whale skeleton.  Learn more here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong is nonfiction informational book geared towards grades 3 and up.  The purpose of the book is to tell the story of Shackleton's 1914-1916 Endurance expedition.  The book also provides some good introductory information about Antarctica as it explains some aspects of the continent's history, climate, and geography in depth to provide a more complete understanding of the struggles the expedition faced and highlight how significant their accomplishments were for the time.  The book reprints some of the actual photographs taken during the expedition expedition to help make the story come to life visually for the readers.  This book has won several awards and honors including the 1999 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sea World Orlando promotes new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin with Epic Voyage

Sea World Orlando is promoting the new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction by visiting several cities in the United States with its Epic Voyage promotion.  Epic Voyage will include a massive ice dome, a virtual reality experience, Antarctica themed games in which participants can win prizes, Coca Cola freestyle machines providing free drinks, and even live penguins.   There will also be street teams providing trivia, prizes, and virtual reality experiences.

Epic Voyage Schedule:
  • January 19-20, 2013 - The New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
  • January 24, 2013 - Gurnee Mills Mall in Illinois
  • January 26-27, 2013 - Chicago Travel & Adventure Show
  • February 8-10, 2013 - Boston Globe Travel Show at Seaport World Trade Center
  • February 23-24, 2013 - King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania
  • March 9-10, 2013 - Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show
  • March 23-24, 2013 - The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville, Florida
  • April TBD - Atlanta stop
  • April 27, 2013 - Miami Dolphins Fin Fest 2013
  • May 4-5, 2013 - Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida
Related Links:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shackleton Epic Recreating James Caird Voyage

Later this month the Shackleton Epic expedition is going to attempt to historically recreate what is probably the most famous and amazing story of survival, the James Caird voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island and the crossing of South Georgia Island.  The expedition is using historically accurate gear and a replica of the James Caird lifeboat that Shackleton and five of his crew used to get to South Georgia Island and get help to rescue the rest of the Endurance crew after their lost their ship sunk in the Antarctic in 1915.  They will have some modern help available, though, as a ship will follow them for filming as well as to offer support if necessary.

You can follow the expedition on their Facebook page here.  They also have a website here, but at the time of this post it appears to be down.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Whale Wars 2013: Sea Shepherd Ships Depart for Antarctic

This year the Sea Shepherds have 4 ships that they are using to try and keep the Japanese from killing any whales in the Antarctic this season.  The ships are now headed to the Antarctic ahead of the Japanese fleet, which was delayed this season due to issues with the factory ship.  It should be interesting to see how this season goes with the leader Paul Watson stepping down as the key figure due to legal actions and evading extradictions that are out for him from Costa Rica and Japan.  Also, a United States court has ordered them to stay at least 450 meters from the Japanese, which is quite far compared to some their previous antics and would be interesting to see if they actually keep with it and if so what they end up doing to keep their goal of stopping the Japanese from killing any whales.

Related Articles:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Coldest Journey Expedition to Attempt Winter Crossing of Antarctica

The Coldest Journey is the name of the expedition that is attempting what is said to be the first ever attempt to cross the Antarctic during the winter.  This feat is one of the last great polar challenges remaining to be accomplished.  The expedition is expected to begin its trek on March 21, 2013 at Crown Bay in Queen Maud Land in Eastern Antarctica.  The expedition plans to finish around September 21, 2013 at McMurdo Sound where they will remain until being picked up by a ship in February 2014.

Learn more about the expedition on their website here.