A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole
Author: Dr. Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers
Sometimes we open a book and race from page to page, exhilarated and so involved 10 hours go by and we are still reading. Ice Bound is such a book. The true story of Dr. “Duff” Nielsen and the adventurers and scientists she lives with for one year at the Antarctic South Pole, with temperatures of below 100 degrees F, astounds. The South Pole “winter” (our summer) months of 6 months duration allows for no access in or out of the outpost where Duff stays as the only doctor to administer to 46 other people. This team is on its own no matter what happens, and in the stunningly freezing cold, many things go wrong. The generators go out threatening the lives of all members of the team. People are wounded and frostbite abounds. The big machines that keep the ice at bay go down and have to be repaired, but there are no replacement parts. The hospital is tiny with minimal equipment, and half of the equipment doesn’t work. Everything they might need is dropped from another post before winter. And then they are on their own, in a darkness that never ends, yet holds its own quarter of magnificent beauty. Ice Bound amazes. It is one of the best non fiction books I have read since The Outpost.
Dr. Jerri Nielsen, a 46 year old single ER doctor working in Ohio, comes from a very close family that believes in daring adventures and living life to the fullest – with absolutely no complaining. It is Dr. Nielsen’s two brothers and mother and father who keep her sane when she decides to take a year off from emergency room care and travel to the remote American outpost called the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. She is tested and briefed about the dangers of wintering on the ice. It is 1999, and Dr. Nielsen, or Duffy as she is called by family and friends, knows that the “Polies” live in total darkness in the winter but she craves the adventure. She takes a huge drop in salary and joins the team of 46 other men and women that are on the outpost for various reasons: scientific studies, geographic studies, support staff, mechanics, etc. who will winter in the Dome, the icy and frozen “headquarters” where the team will live and hopefully survive. Duff takes on the role of mental and physical healer to a group of adventure junkies and science buffs, for it takes a certain kind of courage to embrace the Antarctic.
Dr. Duff arrives at the outpost loaded with NSF supplied cold weather gear weighing 25-30 pounds that must be worn at all times outside and sometimes inside. She is told not to bring deodorant for everyone’s clothes fall off in shreds by the time they leave and the warm weather gear allows for no smells to come through anyway. The 47 get two 2 minute showers per week, and one load of laundry per week. As Duff falls in love with her companions and the Antarctic everything that can go wrong does. Since no planes can come in during the winter months due to the extreme cold, the entire team is reliant upon themselves and each other and community is not just a word, it is a way of living. As the team lives, plays and sleep almost on top of each other, they form a strong bond. And when Duff finds out she has breast cancer as the winter begins, they all decide to keep her alive. The tale of this team and the majesty and cruelty of Antarctica is simply not to be missed as each person becomes so real to us we are inserted into their presences.
An astonishing tale of survival and friendship, Ice Bound presents life and death at its most real. Beautifully written, we all feel a loss when this true story of outstanding courage ends and we have to put the book down. Read it – you must!
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole is available on Amazon.com and booksellers nationwide