Where in the south is a mass of land (and ice), a continent surrounded by ocean, up north there is the Arctic Ocean surrounded by territories belonging to the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia, lands inhabited by indigenous people in varying degrees of adaptation to their larger political affiliation and to the rapid changes that have cast them adrift from their traditional ways. Also these are territories where a frenetic scramble has picked up pace to exploit natural resources of hydrocarbons and minerals (with the melting of ice, due to global warming, newly exposed rock is revealing more such riches).
Where the southern continent is heartbreakingly beautiful, Wheeler’s accounts of folks she meets along the way and the stories she discerns are often simply heartbreaking. The Inuit in Canada’s Arctic struggling with their new life and its side-effects of obesity and alcoholism (to the extent that local supermarkets will not even sell vanilla essence). Greenlanders working out routes to independence after having swung home rule. The Solovki monastery in Russia, forcibly rid of its
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