A personal account of a tourist expedition to Antarctica, marked by rich photography and touches of memoir.
In 2012 the author, in his 80s, joined his grandson Colin for a trip from the United States to Tierra del Fuego and, from there, to Antarctica’s northernmost shores, taking in wildlife, glaciers, and science stations. Crossing Drake Passage, the waterway between Argentina and Antarctica, was an uncomfortable two days of rough waves routinely tossing him out of bed. But Flynn’s done his homework, and he knows what he endured was nothing compared to the experience of early explorers like Ernest Shackleton or, more recently, the scientist who had to perform a biopsy on herself in isolation. Flynn, a native Texan and former writing teacher, has a flinty, lightly comic style, and though some chapters ramble—Flynn meeting a Russian ship captain leads to a longueur about the Cold War—his observations of the continent’s fragile ecosystem have intelligence and force. Each of the 15 chapters begins with a large photo and ends with a slideshow of others (landscape view is preferable); the pages are studded with smaller photos, which are not always well-captioned but generally intuitive. Maps and hyperlinks are abundant, most taking readers to Wikipedia. As a narrative, Flynn’s work never quite settles on what it wants to be: An “If You Go” chapter with tourist advice suggests a newspaper travel article, the photography aspires to a National Geographic feature, and Flynn’s recollections of earlier travels around the world with his grandson suggest a more personal tale. But the overall feel of the app is less one of incoherence than omnivorousness—the author was so clearly inspired by his journey that he wanted to pack everything in.
Not a tale of high adventure, but a likable snapshot of a trek to a place few witness.