Description

Ice Bear

The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon

Michael Engelhard

  • $29.95 paperback (9780295999227) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: November 2016
  • Subject Listing: Natural History
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 170 illus., 145 in color, 1 map, 8 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Prime Arctic predator and nomad of the sea ice and tundra, the polar bear endures as a source of wonder, terror, and fascination. Humans have seen it as spirit guide and fanged enemy, as trade good and moral metaphor, as food source and symbol of ecological crisis. Eight thousand years of artifacts attest to its charisma, and to the fraught relationships between our two species. In the White Bear, we acknowledge the magic of wildness: it is both genuinely itself and a screen for our imagination.

Ice Bear traces and illuminates this intertwined history. From Inuit shamans to Jean Harlow lounging on a bearskin rug, from the cubs trained to pull sleds toward the North Pole to cuddly superstar Knut, it all comes to life in these pages. With meticulous research and more than 160 illustrations, the author brings into focus this powerful and elusive animal. Doing so, he delves into the stories we tell about Nature-and about ourselves-hoping for a future in which such tales still matter.
Michael Engelhard works as a wilderness guide in Arctic Alaska and holds an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His books include Where the Rain Children Sleep: A Sacred Geography of the Colorado Plateau, the anthology Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North, and a recent essay collection, American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean. His writing has also appeared in Sierra, Outside, Audubon, National Wildlife, National Parks, High Country News, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Everybody loves polar bears but few likely know, or have ever pondered, why. In Ice Bear, Michael Engelhard weaves together the disparate pieces of our eclectic social and cultural fascination with polar bears. His tapestry of images further reveals our complex attachment to this Arctic icon."
-Andrew Derocher, author of Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior

"Like the whale, the polar bear is a seismographic animal, its fate a sensory prediction of our own. Michael Engelhard's gorgeous synoptic survey of this icy cultural symbol speaks to this terrible, wonderful beauty, a paradoxical emblem of a world out of kilter. Beautifully written and tellingly illustrated, Engelhard's Ice Bear sits on top of our world, regnant, threatened, intrinsically and endlessly evocative of the ever vexed meeting of human and natural history."
-Philip Hoare, author of The Sea Inside

"A great book about the greatest and most formidable of polar predators."
-Richard Ellis, author of On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear

Reviews

"Engelhard's writing has the sort of calm authority that reminds me often of Barry Lopez."
-David Knowles, EarthLines

"Engelhard's thought-provoking iconography explores in depth the multitude of cultural roles played by the polar bear."
-David Fox, Anchorage Press

"Essayist and wilderness guide Engelhard examines the intertwined history of polar bears and humans in this fascinating look at how we have interpreted the species. . . . Of particular interest now as polar ice melts."
-Nancy Bent, Booklist

"'Iconic' is the marketing cliché of our times, applied as unthinkingly to wildlife as it is to biscuits. But here, Michael Engelhard digs deeper, tracing how the polar bear came to occupy its place in contemporary culture and, in the process, suggesting what the mechanics of iconography say about us."
-Mike Unwin, BBC Wildlife Magazine

"Engelhard is a first-rate guide and very capable writer; Ice Bear makes fascinating reading - although grimly ironic, since the future of the polar bear in the wild has never looked bleaker."
-Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

"The product of Engelhard's exhaustive research is an eclectic, comprehensive, compelling, and very readable cultural iconography elevated to a level of art form by the inclusion of well-chosen and often stunning illustrations on almost every page. Ice Bear is a visual National Geographic with real verbal punch!"
-Marilyn Gates, New York Journal of Books

"Engelhard, a Fairbanks resident, is trained as a cultural anthropologist and works as a wilderness guide in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The combination makes him uniquely qualified to have authored this fascinating and extensively illustrated exploration of humanity's deeply complicated relationship with an animal he is well acquainted with."
-David A. James, Alaska Dispatch News

"Eminently readable. This work is expertly researched."
-Susan Sommer, Alaska Magazine

"[A] beautifully illustrated, hugely engaging book. . . . For all its nightmare-haunting power, however, the aspect of the polar bear that really makes it an icon of the age is its vulnerability . . . . Another merit of the book is the author's willingness to track these themes to their origins."
-Mark Cocker, The Spectator

"Today, polar bears have become corporate mascots, symbols of a changing climate, and sought-after trophies both dead and, as the subjects of photos, alive. But in Ice Bear, Engelhard tries to throw off the sentimentality that marks most modern writing about polar bears in order to focus on their real significance in human culture. It's a book that has as much to say about humans as it does about its subject, and it explores that niche well in an entertaining style."
-James Thompson, Hakai Magazine

"A compelling chronicle of our fraught relationship with the polar bear. . . . The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful and colorful-especially so for a bear that is basically white except for its claws and nose. . . . Engelhard has written an interesting and wide-ranging review of just how humans think about the ice bear."
-Mark J. Palmer, Earth Island Journal

"[A] fascinating cultural history of polar bruins in the human imagination. . . richly illustrated with documentary photos and museum work."
-Florangela Davila, Seattle Magazine

"What has been missing to date has been a thorough review of the cultural associations between humans and polar bears. That gap has now been filled by Michael Engelhard's detailed treatment of the connection between humans and polar bears in Ice Bear. . . . This book should be in the library of all who share this interest and want to know more about this Arctic icon."
-Marty Obbard, International Bear News