Book review: The Arctic by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen

The Arctic, by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen.

This is an extremely well laid-out book, written by Richard Sale and with photos by Per Michelson on almost every page helping the reader to understand the subject under discussion. To read it was a fascinating learning experience, though with its weight, not one for reading in bed.

The Arctic details the geology of the area, the climate, the Arctic’s unique solar and atmospheric phenomena including the aurora borealis. The author even explains how the simple snowflake forms, yet how unique and complex each individual snowflake is.

Since the Arctic is made up of parts of different countries these areas are visited in turn and the author writes of their most interesting historical and natural features, including the indigenous peoples and their former and modern means of survival.

Much of the second half of the book – the part that I found absolutely fascinating – covers habitats and the birds and mammals that live there. Like the whole book this part was illustrated by amazing photographs of the animals and birds and Per Michelsen has to be complimented on both his photographic skills and the range of photos. Photographing mammals in the Arctic will present many challenges.

The book concludes with a warning on the fragility of the Arctic and the real risks of commercial exploitation, particularly of oil. The reader is reminded of the huge cost to wildlife and to the undersea habitat when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in 1989 and released 250,000 barrels of oil into the sea.

Reading the book I was in awe at the vast knowledge of the author. This is not a book about one aspect of the Arctic but of a wide range of complex topics. The compilation of such a book, and its photographic illustrations, are a credit to Sale and Michelsen.

The Arctic by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen.                                                                Whittles Publishing Ltd, Dunbeath, Caithness, KW6 6EG  £25.

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