Few humans have evolved who can survive and thrive in the bitter cold. Below a certain temperature, death is inevitable. This book is about this aspect of our environment and about Sir Ranulph Fiennes' own life experiencing the extreme cold, from his adventuring apprenticeship 40 years ago on the Greenland Ice Cap to masterminding over the past 5 years the crossing of the Antarctic during winter; the 'coldest journey on Earth', where temperatures will regularly plummet to minus 92ºC.
Cold has altered history on many great occasions. Hannibal crossed the high Alps under conditions of extreme cold; soldiers of the mighty armies of Hitler and Napoleon died in their thousands on the frozen Russian steppes from frostbite gangrene. In the past 150 years men and women have also seen the cold as a natural challenge as adventurers and explorers from all over the world have attempted to conquer the coldest regions of the globe.
Today, parts of the world subject to extreme cold are the focus of intense geopolitical pressure, as President Putin claims Arctic coastal waters to be Russian, in readiness for the predicted melting of sea-ice, sending submarines to plant Russian flags on the seabed as a warning to would-be non-Russian mineral prospectors, and similar claims are made on the Antarctic. And yet a few degrees of climate change in Antarctica could easily trigger the detachment of huge ice sheets which would slide into the Southern Ocean. As sea levels rise some of the biggest coastal cities in the world would be submerged - a catastrophe that would render insignificant the most devastating of past tsunamis.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes has spent a lifetime working in conditions of extreme cold - his frostbitten fingers are a testament to the horrors that man can experience in such temperatures, but he also knows that the life he has led owes a great deal to the cold. Both scientifically rigorous, historically questioning and intensely personal, this book is both a warning of the dangers we face with our relationship to the cold and celebration of a life lived in some of the extremist temperatures known to man.