"Adventures in the Antarctic only happen when someone makes a mistake.”
—From the Preface
In 1956, John C. Behrendt had just earned his master’s degree in geophysics and obtained a position as an assistant seismologist in the International Geophysical Year glaciological program. He sailed from Davisville, Rhode Island to spend eighteen months in Antarctica with the IGY expedition as part of a U.S. Navy-supported scientific expedition to establish Ellsworth Station on the Filchner Ice Shelf. Innocents on the Ice is a memoir based on Behrendt’s handwritten journals, looking back on his daily entries describing his life and activities on the most isolated of the seven U.S. Antarctic stations.
Nine civilians and thirty Navy men lived beneath the snow together, and intense personal conflicts arose during the dark Antarctic winter of 1957. Little outside contact was available to ease the tension, with no mail delivery and only occasional radio contact with families back home. The author describes the emotional stress of the living situation, along with details of his parties’ explorations of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf system during the summers of 1957 and 1958. Along the hazardous 1,300-mile traverse in two Sno-Cats, the field party measured ice thickness and snow accumulation as part of an international effort to determine the balance of the Antarctic ice sheet, and made the first geological observations of the spectacular Dufek Massif in the then-unexplored Pensacola Mountains. Behrendt also draws upon his forty years of continual participation in Antarctic research to explain the changes in scientific activities and environmental awareness in Antarctica today.
Including photos, maps, and a glossary identifying various forms of ice, Innocents on the Ice is a fascinating combination of the diary of a young graduate student and the reflections of the accomplished scientist he became.