A tale of grit and real teamwork in the wilds of Antarctica when the hunger for knowledge reigns supreme.
Anything can happen in a pure wilderness experienced by few humans—a place where unseen menace waits everywhere. This story is an unembellished account of a scientist and his team exploring the last place on Earth. But, unlike most recent books on Antarctica, the reader becomes embedded with geologist Bruce Luyendyk’s team. They share the challenges, companionship, failures, bravery, and success brought to light from scientific research pursued in an unforgiving place, Marie Byrd Land, or Mighty Bad Land.
The geologists make surprising discoveries. Luyendyk realizes that vast submarine plateaus in the southwest Pacific are continental pieces that broke away from the Marie Byrd Land sector of Gondwana. He coined “Zealandia” to describe this newly recognized submerged continent. Only the tops of its mountains poke above sea level to host the nation of New Zealand. This stunning revelation of a submerged eighth continent promises economic and geopolitical consequences reverberating into the twenty-first century.
The story occurs in the 1990s and fills a gap in the timeline of Antarctic exploration between the Heroic Age, the age of military exploration, and before the modern era of science. Danger is exponentially greater, isolation a constant threat without GPS, satellite phones, and the internet. As the expedition’s leader, Luyendyk stands up to his demons that surface under the extreme duress of his experience, like nearly losing two team members.
Bruce Luyendyk, Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the University of California, Santa Barbara, was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. On his first expedition to West Antarctica in 1989, Luyendyk and his geology team found evidence that a large submarine plateau, a fragment from the Gondwana breakup, comprises a sunken continent beneath New Zealand. This eighth continent was named Zealandia by Luyendyk.
In 2016, the US Board on Geographic Names honored the author by naming a summit in Antarctica Mount Luyendyk. Luyendyk is a graduate of San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego. His prior research in marine geophysics included exploration of deep-sea black smokers, i.e., hydrothermal vents, using the deep submersible ALVIN off western Mexico. For this, he and colleagues shared the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.