I was surprised to discover it’s still International Polar Year (IPY), a large scientific programme focusing on the Arctic and the Antarctic. Australian research scientist Ian Allison is the leader of the Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate Programme. IPY is really two years – from March 2007 to March 2009.

I found all this out when I saw my novel Polar Boy on a reading resource list. And that started me thinking about other Australian books about the poles. Anthony Eaton’s Into White Silence and Hazel Edward’s picture book Antarctic Dad are personal favourites. Both authors were recipients of Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowships and spent time in the Antarctic writing and researching. Applications for the next summer (Dec – Jan) are close 31 March 2009. Oh how I wish! I did my research sticking my hand in the freezer, listening to mice scrabble in the wall (imagine a polar bear scratching on an igloo) and sitting in a bath of ice! The closest I ever got to a live polar bear was at Sea World – and it looked very sad and refused to move.

Other Aussie books about things of ice and snow which I would recommend are Alive in the Death Zone by Lincoln Hall – great non fiction for primary school boys, Hazel Edward’s young adult adventure Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen and Mathew Reilly’s Antarctic adult thriller Ice Station. Plus two more that aren’t Australian but deserve a mention – James Patterson’s The Final Warning, the fourth book in the science fantasy series Maximum Ride (suit ages 10 and above) and Polly Dunbar’s award-winning picture book Penguin.

Here’s what I thought of Into White Silence – one of my favourite reads for 2008

Into White Silence, by Anthony Eaton Woolshed Press (Random House) Young Adult Fiction Australian Paperback rrp $23.95

It is said that no man who experience the ice escapes untouched by its beauty and its danger. Author Anthony Eaton spent the summer of 2005 at Casey Station in Antarctica to research polar life. His original intention was to write about the landscape but his focus soon turned to the story of the people whose sacrifices had made the ice accessible.

Into White Silence is a powerful thriller about the fate of the Polar Exploration Vessel Raven. Through the words of Lieutenant William Downes’ diary and the comments of the author we meet the men who shared the Raven’s disastrous voyage. The expedition leader Mr Rourke is a man of means with a troubled past and a heart as murky dark as the black steel-plated vessel itself. From the moment Rourke appears and Downes expresses doubt, the reader cannot help but make ominous comparisons to earlier explorations that ended in tragedy.

As I read, I was constantly fighting a battle to remind myself that Downes was not a historical figure and the diary was a literary fabrication. It is a testament to Eaton’s research and ability as a writer, that the line between fact and fiction is so blurred.
Rourke’s callous decision to not search for the first man lost overboard sets the tone for the physical and mental unravelling that follows when the Raven is trapped in pack ice. How long can a man hold on to hope and how will he deal with watching it melt away?

Into White Silence is a compelling study of the stark cruelty of the polar landscape and its effect on the men who dare to challenge it. A terrible but fascinating story. A dark tale of white ice. Recommended to all.