“Sometimes I wonder whether some other force is at hand–something equally obscured, warning us that none of us should be in Antarctica at all.
I tell them I was here when the massive cruise ship found herself trapped and sinking in a windswept cove of pack ice. I tell them that the ship was too big and too fragile to be so far south, and that my ship, the Cormorant, was the closest one and still a full day’s travel away. I tell them that, below the Antarctic Circle, the phrase search and rescue has little practical meaning. There is simply no one around to rescue you.
I tell them that 715 passengers and crew died that day. I don’t tell them that 2 of those who died were rescuers, whose fates tragically intertwined. Most want to hear about the victims, not the rescuers. I don’t tell them that we are one and the same.” My Last Continent, by Midge Raymond
My husband is going to Antarctica in January. It’s been a lifelong dream but, as he points out, even though he’s traveled more than I have, I’ve been to more continents. So I think he may be partly motivated because he’s trying to catch up with me. We get competitive about traveling in our family but, given their extensive travel for work, our sons are leaving us far behind when it comes to the number of countries visited.
Anyway, now that the time is drawing near, I thought I’d better pay more attention to my husband’s upcoming trip. When I learned about the recently published novel, My Last Continent, I had to pick it up, though it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the safety of Antarctic cruises, because it’s about a disastrous one.
On the other hand, I comfort myself that my husband will be traveling with a vastly experienced crew, on a polar research vessel expressly made for the perils of Antarctic waters. The Akademik Sergey Vavilov is one of only two polar expedition cruise vessels that conduct active scientific research in the months between the Antarctic and high Arctic seasons.
The trip is sponsored by a local travel/adventure group, Pack, Paddle & Ski. Rochester is lucky to have this amazing organization, which leads trips around the world and has raised thousands of dollars for charity.
I don’t tend to like fiction with a message, but My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is a beautifully written love story and a what-would-happen-if novel.
As if we don’t have enough to worry about given climate change, My Last Continent highlights an issue I wasn’t aware of. In addition to polar research vessels that take tourists to Antarctica, there are now oversized luxury cruise ships that travel to both northern and southern extremes. Because the polar ice is melting, such ships can go where they have never gone before.
The problem is, these large ships are too fragile for treacherous polar waters, and they carry way too many passengers. Should the ship get into trouble, it’s not likely all the passengers could be rescued. For one thing, there is no one around – polar waters are isolated and too far away from other ships.
This is what happens in My Last Continent. I learned this on the first page, though not the details of who survives and who doesn’t, and I was of course compelled to read on to see how it all played out.
Another problem is that these cruise ships are highly disruptive to fragile wildlife populations.
There is beautiful writing here; it is not simply a disaster tale. Midge Raymond takes us deep into the heart of Antarctica: its weather and terrain and, most of all, it’s wildlife. At the same time, it is a portrait of two complex characters–explorers and naturalists who are in love with this forbidding land as much as they are with each other.
If you like books about adventure and travel to the wildest reaches of nature, and if you are concerned about planet Earth, I think you’ll love My Last Continent. This is Midge Raymond’s first full-length work of fiction. I look forward to reading more. Midge Raymond is also the founder of Ashland Creek Press.
Here is a Daily Beast essay she wrote about cruise ships in the polar regions: “Cruise Ships in the Arctic Take Titanic Risks.” It is truly frightening.
And one more quote from My Last Continent:
“It is not uncommon in Antarctica to see what does not exist–to see the mountains levitate in the distance, to see the rising tower of a city on the horizon. When the sea is colder than the air, a layer forms that creates a polar mirage. The more layers, the more refracted the light: Mountains are born from the sea; cliffs turn into castles. Such mirages usually last only moments, until the air layers mix, and then they disappear…..Such visions have a name–fata morgana…..”
Any books about Antarctica to recommend? Which wild and faraway places would you like to visit someday? Let us know in the comments.
18 thoughts on “My Last Continent”
Great post! I’m currently involved in a project to get two members of my school community to Antarctica in March 2017, I’ll definitely be checking out the book! Good luck to your husband for January!
Oh, wow, that sounds terrific! Stop by again and tell us about it. Good luck!!
Will do Valorie! X
My friend lived there for a bit! Great stuff 🙂
Wow, what an amazing experience! I hope you like the book if you decide to read it!
congratulazioni per i tuoi lavori e le tue iniziative.
Saluti e abbracci per la tua famiglia
Giuseppe e Vita Sansone from Carini
________________________________ Da: Books Can Save A Life Inviato: lunedì 3 ottobre 2016 20.28 A: firstname.lastname@example.org Oggetto: [New post] My Last Continent
Valorie Grace Hallinan posted: “”Sometimes I wonder whether some other force is at hand–something equally obscured, warning us that none of us should be in Antarctica at all. I tell them I was here when the massive cruise ship found herself trapped and sinking in a windswept cove of p”
Giuseppe e Vita –
Ciao! Thank you for being faithful readers. We miss you and your family so much, looking forward to getting back to Italy.
It has been a difficult election week here in the US.
On 6 October 2016 at 14:19, Books Can Save A Life wrote:
How come you aren’t going with your husband? I don’t have any books about Antarctica. Most I have read have been about the arctic which is also very cold and dangerous for ships 🙂
Part lack of courage, but mostly $$.
I don’t think I’m adventuresome enough for a trip to Antartica. But, here’s hoping your hubby had a marvelous excursion. We just got back from Ireland and are thinking about Germany next.
This book ticks off so many of my boxes, and the cover is so pretty!
What a great opportunity for your husband! I’m inclined to want to travel to the colder climates than the warm ones myself.
I went over to GR to add it to my ‘shelf’ only to discover that I already have at some point!
Great! Being in Nova Scotia, I’d imagine you are used to colder weather. Let me know what you think whenever you finish the book.
I thought the premise of this story was a great idea and I learned a lot about Antarctica but the plot just didn’t work for me. I really disliked the ending.
I can see how you might dislike the ending. I have mixed feelings on that one. I’m wondering if as she matures as a fiction writer she might become more adept at plot.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book, fiction or non, set in Antarctica. This sounds fascinating and I’ve added it to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation.
Debbie, I hope you like it!
I loved sailing in the tropics, but sailing in the ice and cold sounds horrible to me. What does sound lovely and even exciting is the pristine landscape and seascapes, the wildlife and majestic views. I’m sure your husband will love it, and maybe you will share some of his adventures there.
Sailing in bitter ice and cold is not at the top of my list either. Thanks for visiting, Deborah.