Title: Riding the Ice Wind: By Kite and Sledge Across Antarctica
Author: Alastair Vere Nicoll
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Publisher: I.B. Tauris
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
Riding the Ice Wind is a chronicle of Alastair Vere Nicoll’s journey across Antarctica with a team of men. He discusses the preparation for the journey, as well as the challenges and hardships they faced once they were on the continent.
Antarctica has always fascinated me, so when I first heard about Riding the Ice Wind, I knew I wanted to read it. While I would never want to haul a sled across the entire continent, I thought the idea sounded really interesting and I was eager to see what the journey was like, as well as what might motivate someone to do something so daring.
I have to say, Nicoll really erased any romanticism I had about Antarctica. He puts a very human face on the continent, discussing how hard it was to just get through one day. There were logistical issues, not to mention the unrelenting cold. It’s difficult for many of us to conceive of how cold it really is in a place like Antarctica. At the same time I admired Nicoll for his courage on this expedition, I thought he was crazy for wanting to do it in the first place.
This is a memoir, rather than an account of a trip across Antarctica. As a result, it is intensely personal. Nicoll shares his doubts and fears with the reader; we really get into his head and are allowed to share in his joys and frustrations. There is no detachment here. This may prove a frustration to some readers, as Nicoll often ruminates on the intense loneliness that surrounds him, but I appreciated the personal angle that is so different from many similar books out there.
I appreciated how honest Nicoll was with the reader. A lot of things on the trip went wrong. Things didn’t work out, weren’t planned well, or just didn’t happen correctly. Nicoll doesn’t offer excuses, but instead shows the reader how he and his team worked through these challenges. He also gives some appreciation of how difficult it is to plan such an epic journey, something I had given little thought to before this.
Riding the Ice Wind was a really interesting look at a trip that I would never want to take myself, but I loved being along for the ride. Despite the difficulties and harsh realities of Antarctica, though, my enthusiasm for visiting the continent one day hasn’t dampened. I definitely recommend this book for armchair travelers and people who appreciate an introspective memoir.