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Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize
Shortlisted for the Richard Jeffries Award
The story of one woman’s passion for glaciers
As one of the world’s leading glaciologists, Professor Jemma Wadham has devoted her career to the glaciers that cover one-tenth of the Earth’s land surface. Today, however, these ‘ice rivers’ are in peril. High up in the Alps, Andes and Himalaya, once-indomitable glaciers are retreating; in Antarctica, meanwhile, thinning ice sheets are releasing meltwater to sensitive marine foodwebs, and may be unlocking vast quantities of methane stored deep beneath them. The potential consequences for humanity are almost unfathomable.
Jemma’s first encounter with a glacier, as a student, sparked her love of these icy landscapes. There is nowhere on Earth she feels more alive. Whether abseiling down crevasses, skidooing across frozen fjords, exploring ice caverns, or dodging polar bears – for a glaciologist, it’s all in a day’s work.
Prompted by an illness that took her to the brink of death and back, in Ice Rivers Jemma recalls twenty-five years of expeditions around the globe, revealing why the glaciers mean so much to her – and what they should mean to us. As she guides us from the Alps to the Andes, the importance of the ice to crucial ecosystems and human livelihoods becomes clear – our lives are entwined with these coldest places on the planet. This is a memoir like no other: an eye-witness account by a top scientist at the frontline of the climate crisis, and an impassioned love letter to the glaciers that are her obsession.
Ice Rivers is a remarkable book. For those of us who have had the privilege of scrambling across glaciers around the world, this work will bring back sharp memories of their otherworldly beauty. For those who haven't, this is the perfect introduction into a crucial and vanishing part of our planet. Jemma Wadham works to understand, to bear witness, and to protect - it's hard to imagine a more fully human undertaking -- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
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