(Correne Coetzer) Warm on the shelves is a handbook/guidebook by veteran Belgian polar adventurer Dixie Dansercoer. When talking to potential publishers, Dixie says to ExWeb, he learned that there was no comprehensive guidebook or field guide on the market yet, so the publishers went a bit outside their regular path with this book, but when he told them that was exactly the core of polar travel, taking a bit of a daring step into the unknown, they were sold.
Drawing on his experiences, challenges and adventures since 1993, Dansercoer gives advice about motivations and limitations, understanding the cold, preparations, gear, out there, in camp, and problems and dangers during polar expeditions.
ExplorersWeb: Why have you decided to write this book?
Dixie: After almost two decades on the ice, I felt that I had enough accumulated knowledge to put down on paper and share it with whoever wanted or needed to know more about all aspects of polar travel.
When talking to potential publishers, I also learned that there was no comprehensive guidebook or field guide on the market yet, so that facilitated a great cooperation with Cicerone publishers who went a bit outside their regular path with this book, but when I told them that was exactly the core of polar travel, taking a bit of a daring step into the unknown, they were sold.
Also, after concentrating all these years on quite ambitious expeditions that needed my full attention and having now reached the halfway point of 50 years old, I will start guiding more smaller expeditions on the Arctic Ocean and in Antarctica.
I give participants several training sessions and have always had this feeling that I forgot to pass on important details, so now it is all in the book. Laughingly, I tell them that they should consider it their bible, but on a more serious note, there are so many important details that may not be overlooked, otherwise a polar expedition will end prematurely and you may ask yourself ‘What did I do wrong?’ Hopefully this book can prevent this kind of situation.
ExplorersWeb: The title says SP and NP but who specifically did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
Dixie: To be honest, I did not write the book with anyone in particular in mind. It took me two years to just spit out what I thought was relevant for anyone interested in polar travel. You can find a plethora of books on the pioneering expeditions and just as many on modern polar travel, but they tell the story and rarely go into the details.
I have also listened carefully to the questions people ask me during public speaking and you would be surprised at the intricate reflections they make. Many of those questions are about the practicalities and they do not only come from potential expeditioners. Anyone with a keen interest in polar travel wants to understand and comprehend and hopefully this book delivers the answers.
What I do admit, is my soft criticism of people going out their irresponsibly, either putting other people in danger or forcing actions that are the result of ignorance. I feel, though, that it is the sign of the times with quick and fast immersions in the cold that are the result of TV, publicity and a general atmosphere of ‘hey, if he/she can do this, I can!’
A quick search on the internet, dreaming away with impressive photo imagery, watching a reality TV show where novices surrounded by TV crews suffer but ‘conquer’ at the same time, … It cannot be the real thing.
The real thing only comes when you can feel totally at ease out there and do not have to ‘suffer’ through it all. And that comes only when you know all of your equipment inside out, when you function flawlessly, when you take your time preparing (several years!) building up enough motivation to take the blows when they come.
I evolve with the times and had a grand time with an expedition partner half my age on our superb expedition together recently. But there are limits to ‘fast’. Without solid foundations, mistakes will be made.
ExplorersWeb: What subjects do you cover?
Dixie: The main chapters are:
Motivations and limitations
Understanding the cold
What to take
Problems and dangers
I have spiced up the theory with pragmatic solutions, expedition anecdotes, illustrative photos and an interview here and there. A bit of humor surely does not hurt especially in an environment where everyone tends to take himself/herself usually too serious.
ExplorersWeb: Are the tips and tricks only yours or do you also have other adventurers’ advice in the book?
Dixie: In my introduction I clearly state that there are many ways of doing things and that I do not have the pretence to claim anything or preach the one and only way to go on an expedition, so it is advice that is for grabs.
I do mention different working methods and a choice of equipment to use but at the same time I express my preference based on those many years of interactions with equipment (yes, even though in real life I am a non-materialist, we tend to personalize dead materials). I am more than open to hear from colleagues who have remarks or who have their own, maybe better ways of dealing with the ice.
ExplorersWeb: How long did it take you to write the book? Did you add to the contents after this last SP expedition?
Dixie: After our [Dixie and Alain Hubert] crossing of the Arctic Ocean from Siberia to Greenland in 2007, I really felt that 106 days on the ice gave enough of a solid foundation to speak about how a human being can survive in a hostile environment for so long.
When you talk about this to people, you can never cover the whole spectrum of details or you simply do not get enough time to explain it with the right wording, so that is when I decided to write the book.
I have also kept up with the natural practice of coming back from each and every expedition with a daybook full of ‘things to ameliorate’ and I have been very rigid in the implementation of corrections. This has manifested itself in the field of equipment adaptations, techniques or mental attitudes.
The gathered knowledge of my most recent expedition (www.antarcticice.be), unfortunately is not included in this handbook as the editing, lay-out and printing process was already in the making during my absence.
But right now, a literary broker has surprised me with a contract to write 4 books on the expedition: the expedition book, an educative version (14 to 16 yr olds), a kids’ adventure story (7 to 11 yr olds) and a mega photo book. This, together with the production of the 3D expedition documentary will keep me cool during the summer months with a deadline for mid September.
Polar Exploration, a practical handbook for North and South Pole Expeditions is published by Cicerone
ISBN: 978 1 85284 665 7
Published: April 2012
Contents: 21.6cm by 13.8cm. 192pp.
Paperback Gloss Laminated
Dixie Dansercoer has joined, led and guided polar expeditions since 1993. He has crossed the Arctic Ocean, Antarctica and Greenland and has also done mountain climbing, marathon running, mountain biking and sailing expeditions. In the 2011-12 Antarctic season he and Sam Deltour did a record distance 5013km kite-ski expedition.
The book can be purchased here.
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