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April 9th, 2005

The Ninth Circle: A Memoir of Life and Death in Antarctica, 1960-1962

John Behrendt has published an memoir of his work with the United States Antarctic Research Program in the early 1960s, when the Cold War was at its height and research on the ice sheet was risky. The Antarctic air squadron VX6 had an accident rate eight times that of U.S. Naval aviation in other parts of the world, and graduate students and young scientists like Behrendt received hazard pay for their work. In Behrendt's memoir we relive that era of scientific explorations with him. He describes two seasons on the ice in Operation Deep Freeze, leading field parties, conducting scientific research, and struggling against the elements. Behrendt led an over-snow geophysical-glaciological-geologic- geographic exploration party to the southern Antarctic Peninsula and to a mountain range that was eventually named for him in recognition of his work. Behrendt pioneered in aerogeophysical surveys over the Transantarctic Mountains and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. In his reflections of the period from 1956 to 1962, he notes that time was closer to the eras of Ernest Schackleton (Endurance voyage, 1914) and Robert F. Scott's and Roald Amundsen's treks to the S. Pole (1911-12) than to the present. Readers who are fascinated with the twentieth century frontier of our shrinking planet will relish his adventurous account.