About the Book

Argentinian icebreaker General San Martin, 1970, trapped in the Weddell sea ice pack, prior to its rescue by the USCGC Glacier

Argentinian icebreaker General San Martin, 1970, trapped in the Weddell sea ice pack, prior to its rescue by the USCGC Glacier

 
 

About the book...

WIND, FIRE, AND ICE: THE PERILS OF A COAST GUARD ICEBREAKER IN ANTARCTICA
 

This is a modern-day non-fiction adventure about sailing in the treacherous waters of Antarctica aboard the USCGC Glacier. Between 1955 and 1987, the Glacier was the largest and most powerful icebreaker in the free world. Consequently, it was often given the most difficult and dangerous Antarctic missions. This is a story about one of them. In 1970, this Coast Guard vessel ended up trapped deep in the Weddell Sea. In 1915, another vessel was beset in almost the same spot—Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance. His stout wooden ship was crushed from the pressure of the infamous Weddell Sea icepack and sank, leading to an unbelievable two-year saga of hardship, heroism and survival.

Although the Glacier had a steel hull, it was torn as result of hitting an iceberg. The sailors aboard feared they would suffer Shackleton’s fate or something close to it. When they were trapped in their ice prison, there situation looked hopeless. It was late in the summer season, the ice was freezing an inch thicker each day, the current was pulling them closer to the continent, and they were 100 miles from open waters. All the crew could see were tented and buckled pressure ridges of ice ten to fifteen-feet-tall. With no reasonable hope of escape or rescue, the Captain drew up a list of essential crewmembers that would remain aboard the ship during the long dark Antarctic winter.

Freakishly good luck saved the Glacier from destruction in the crushing ice pack, only to later come even closer to annihilation during a raging three-hour-long fire. On the final leg of the voyage, the icebreaker faced the imminent threat of capsizing in Drake Passage in seas as tall as an eight-story building.

This novel is partly a mystery. How did the largest icebreaker in the free world, manned by an experienced captain and crew, end up trapped deep in the Weddell Sea within seventy miles of where Shackleton became icebound? Was the crew misled about the dangers they faced? What caused a nearly fatal shipboard conflagration lasting three long hours when most shipboard fires are extinguished in three minutes?

It is a story of conflict— certainly of man versus nature, but also of man versus man. What happens when an ambitious, egotistical, hard-core militaristic captain clashes with a non- militaristic, Public Health Service physician over issues concerning the safety and welfare of the crew?

The character arc of this novel involves a voyage of personal discovery. It describes how a naïve twenty-six-year-old physician jumps into a situation without much forethought and then has to struggle to survive. It is a story about a physician who starts out with a set of false assumptions and slowly comes to realize a much different reality.

This non-fiction novel should appeal to readers interested in not only adventure stories and mysteries, but also those interested in Antarctica, Antarctic history, geography, nature, oceans, polar icebreakers, military ships, Shackleton, leadership, and cold-weather medicine.

Anyone traveling to Antarctica, which has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, should also find this book of interest. The majority of people going to Antarctica will travel there by ship. Fortunately for most of them, they will not be sailing aboard a military ship with a hazardous-duty assignment. Average tourists will have a sense that they are going on a more adventurous voyage than a typical cruise. But they most likely will not have a clear and comprehensive idea of the dangers they could face—or the joys they could experience. This book will help inform them about the perils and pleasures of such a voyage and give suggestions on how to remain safe while enjoying the wonders of this awesome continent.

Maps and photos help the reader understand and visualize this seven-month saga. Curated videos at the end of the book give readers the chance to see and hear dynamic aspects of Antarctica and its oceans.