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Wrapping up the big chill

Explore Antarctica, By Louise Crossley, Cambridge University Press Pounds 24.95. 0 521 49591 1. Pounds 12.95. 0 521 45566 9, Age range 11 plus

The author of Explore Antarctica, Louise Crossley, worked for the Australian Antarctic Division as expedition leader and station leader at Mawson Antarctic Base and her book must rank alongside the very best on the subject.

By the end, the reader is left with a real understanding of how this continent's landscape and wildlife can evoke an intense emotional response from those who study it at first-hand. The pervading message is that carefully researched management of Antarctica is essential if we are to protect an environment which could be the key to the long-term survival of our species.

The seven chapters (a continent takes shape, ice and weather, human discovery of Antarctica, living in the freezer, humans in a hostile environment, managing Antarctica, and issues for the future) use frequent sub-headings, with rarely more than two paragraphs in each section. This is matched by carefully considered phraseology, which make this book accessible to a wide readership from the able upper primary pupil to teacher reference and adult general interest.

With full colour throughout there are plenty of excellent photographs, maps, diagrams, sections, and satellite images, culminating in a useful glossary and index. The explanations of phenomena such as windchill, whiteout and sundogs are clear and well illustrated. The reference to Antarctica as a "white hole", an energy and information sink similar to the black holes in space, is one which young readers will undoubtedly be left with for some time to come.

Although written for an Australian readership, this in no way inhibits the wider geographical uses of the book. It is a must for departmental reference and the school library and some schools, through imaginatively constructed syllabuses, may wish to use it more directly with pupils.

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