“The Antarctic Factor: if anything can go wrong, it will. It's basically Murphy's Law on steroids…” —Chris Turney
On Christmas Eve 2013, off the coast of East Antarctica, an abrupt weather change trapped the Shokalskiy— the ship carrying earth scientist Chris Turney and seventy-one others involved in the Australasian Antarctic Expedition—in a densely packed armada of sea ice, 1400 miles from civilization. With the ship's hull breached and steerage lost, the wind threatened to drive the vessel into the frozen continent, smashing it to pieces. If nearby floating icebergs picked up speed, they could cause a devastating collision, leaving little time to abandon ship and potentially creating an environmental disaster. The forecast offered no relief—a blizzard was headed their way.
As Turney chronicles his modern-day ordeal, he revisits famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's harrowing Antarctic expedition almost a century prior. His ship, Endurance, was trapped and ultimately lost to the ice, forcing Shackleton and his men to fight for survival on a vast and treacherous icescape for two years. Turney also draws inspiration from Douglas Mawson, whose Antarctic explorations were equally legendary. But for Turney the stakes were even higher— for unlike Shackleton or Mawson, he had his wife and children with him.
Yet there was another key difference: Shackleton and Mawson were completely cut off; Turney’s expedition was connected to the outside world through Twitter, YouTube, and Skype. Within hours, the team became the focus of a media storm, and an international rescue effort was launched to reach the stranded ship. But could help arrive in time to avert a tragedy?
A taut 21st-century survival story, Iced In is also an homage to Shackleton, Mawson, and other scientific explorers who embody the human spirit of adventure, joy in discovery, and will to live.
An excerpt from Iced In
We are stuck on a ship, 1400 miles from anywhere, surrounded by sea ice and bergs. It’s only eight o’clock and I’m having the air choked out of me by a raging blizzard.
Today’s weather chart shows a tightly jammed low out to the west heading our way, meaning what’s happening now is just the start. The atmospheric pressure has dropped 15 millibars over the last few hours and the winds have cranked up. The Shokalskiy is now being buffeted by 50-plus-knot winds and it looks set to stay this way for most of the day.
It’s a good job we’re not in open water. We’d have towering waves to contend with as well.
What the hell am I doing here?
This blizzard is more violent than anything I’ve ever been caught in before. The winds are gusting at the equivalent of 70 miles an hour. The deck is treacherously icy and I hold on tight, grabbing anything to keep my balance. The wind is fierce, blowing vicious darts of ice in my face. I gasp in shock and get down on all fours, keeping low. Fragments of ice hurtle off the rigging. I make sure my snow goggles are firmly in place and drop my head. Only one word can sum this up: violent.
A distant roar of wind warns me another blast is about to hit. . . .