This extraordinary book is the first-person account of John Long's two unforgettable "summers" on the southern continent. Told in a highly accessible and entertaining style, Mountains of Madness is the account of his three-month long fossil hunt. As the story unfolds, we learn of both the highs of scientific discovery as well as the grueling yet essential routines that must be practiced every day just to stay alive in one of the harshest environments on our planet. Alternating with the author's wonder at the intense beauty of his surroundings are his immense frustration and boredom that stem from being completely at the mercy of the elements.
Throughout the course of the expedition, danger is never far off in this inhospitable land. Despite having been trained in the art of building snow caves and practiced in the skill of traversing glaciers, Long tells of two brushes with death in just one afternoon. The hair-raising escape from a deep crevasse is fraught with tension-only to be followed by yet another encounter with sudden disaster when the crash of an avalanche buries Long deep in the snow.
National Research Council. Mountains of Madness: A Scientist's Odyssey in Antarctica. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2001.
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"...an often amusing, highly readable account of the perils of living at the bottom of the world and the extremes scientists will go to in search of answers. His book is at once a fascinating personal chronicle of two expeditions, an amusing look at life in the field, and an account of paleontology of the Antarctic."
-- The Explorers Journal, Winter 2002/03
"Long's style is straightforward, eminently readable, and variously humorous, dramatic, and emotional. ...Long does convey very well the bleak grandeur of Antarctica... Long gives a very telling description of the profound emotional impact of the rigours and isolation of deep field exploration of this frozen continent. As travel books go, this is an unusual and enjoyable pleasure."
-- British Bulletin of Publications, April 2002
"[Long's] account of fieldwork ... is full of authentic details that any expedition veteran will recognize. ... There's no doubt that Antarctica's geology is of prime scientific importance and Long does know his Antarctic history. ... As the central figure, Long comes over as a dogged, cheerful character in whose company you might be happy to spend a field season."
--New Scientist, Feb. 10, 2001
"...very readable memoir. ...Mountains of Madness effectively conveys the author's sense of awe toward Antarctica. I recommend this book to anyone with curiosity about the southern continent..."
-- PALAIOS, February 2002
"Writing in a pleasant, informal style, the author describes what it's really like to be a researcher out in the field in the Transarctic Mountains."
-- SFRA Review, Jan-Feb 2002
"Long's gripping story, told in the first person, brings the excitement and dangers of Antarctica to life. His continual references to earlier expeditions by Shackleton, Byrd, Mawson and others enhance the story and its perspective. ... The story line reads well and carries a balance of contemporary and historic knowledge."
-- Ice Cap News, July-Sept. 2001
"...a very personal book. ... The book will make an interesting read for scientists who have worked in Antarctica and for the general public who are interested in polar exploration."
-- Palaeontologia Electronica, January 2002
"In a down-to-earth and often funny manner, [Long] conveys a sense of the daily routine of scientists living at the bottom of the world. The book maintains a tone of immediacy and an infectious spirit of discovery, effectively articulating the awe experienced by a first-time visitor confronting Antarctica's danger and beauty ... an informative, well-written and deliberate account of contemporary paleontological research."
--Publisher's Weekly, Nov. 27, 2000
"Long is at his best when describing the fossil finds."
--Washington Post Book World, April 15, 2001
"...a fascinating account of his two expeditions to Antarctica's remote Cook Mountains, a virtually untouched fossil hunter's paradise."
-- Discover.com, May 2001
"...an eminently readable account of [paleontologist John Long's] two Antarctic sojourns... Long enlivens his account with quirky, identifiably Australian humor. ... Long's curiosity about everything makes him an astute observer of Antarctic travel; his winning nature makes him an ideal tour guide. In addition to a travelogue, though, Mountains of Madness is also an account of Long's fascinating paleontological work."
--Rain Taxi Review of Books, Summer 2001
"More than just science, this account provides a look at people living and working in an incredibly harsh and dangerous environment."
--Arizona Daily Star, May 27, 2001
"A lively account... As might be guessed from the lurid title taken from H.P. Lovecraft's gothic tale, Long doesn't stint on the boredom and danger of conducting research (albeit in the summer) in a remote, inhospitable land. ... A romantic at heart, Long's detailed chronicle of field work is spiced with reflection and references to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration."
-- Longitude Books