Frigid is good

By Priyanka Sen
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 03:16:47 AM

Book>> Cold Adventures in the World's Frozen Places By Bill Streever Little Brown Indian Price Rs 700

-- Book>> Cold Adventures in the World's Frozen Places By Bill Streever Little Brown Indian Price Rs 700

At one point in this book under review, author Bill Streever declares "Warmth is not always a good thing." Drawing on his experience of living in Anchorage, the biologist takes the reader on a tour of the science, history, geography and ecology of cold temperatures. The narrative thaws the mysterious nature of cold.

In July, Streever takes a dip in an Arctic swimming hole. In October, he studies animal hibernation. In May, he visits an oil rig in Alaska. His dog trots the journey with him. But Streever is reticent about naming his other companions or interlocutors. He refers to scientists he has interviewed by their nationalities.

Down to Earth Nevertheless, the accou-nt is full of entertaining facts four-fifths of the world's fresh water is frozen; the heart rate of bears is around 100 beats a minute; it's eight in hibernating bears; a moose can starve to death with a full stomach; blood circulation to the skin and hands is greater in Inuit people than in Europeans, protecting them from frostbite.

Contrary to its subtitle, Adventures in the World's Frozen Places, the book belies many misadventures. There are stories of cocky men who die trying to reach the yet unmarked poles. Streever restrains his humour while writing about a group of scientists that asks to be frozen in liquid nitrogen in the hope of revival centuries later.

The celebratory tone gets muted as Streever writes about climate change and what it means for cold places. "Even in a warming world, a world choked by carbon dioxide and methane, cold persists," he writes. Though for how much longer is anyone's guess. Unlike a lot of writers on climate change, Streever does not mount the pulpit.

Priyanka Sen studies physics at the University of Delhi

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