What better way to cool off in this incessant mid-90° heat than armchair-traveling to the extreme north…you know, way up there, the Arctic. I just finished the book, Ending in Ice, about the German expeditionist, Alfred Wegener, who led the then unthinkable pursuit of further developing what would eventually give rise to the continental drift theory…that continents move horizontally with respect to one another and that Earth’s continents were indeed once joined and had drifted or torn apart from one another. (Remember learning how eastern South America uncannily lines up with western Africa?) In terms of leadership, perseverance, putting the lives of his fellow team members before his own, keeping his word amidst diversity, thinking on his feet, mentoring, etc., he’s right up there with Shackleton. Yet, most people have never heard of this first-rate climatologist.

And that was exactly his problem…letting his fellow scholars too narrowly define him by his meteorology background or more precisely, by what he was not: a geologist. Circa 1915, when Wegener was hot on the cold trail, researchers and professors rarely strayed into others’ disciplines. That was akin to personal brand dilution, even professional suicide. Being able to hypothesize, collaborate and bring about results “cross-functionally” was not the desirable business skill set that it is today. In fact, the territorial academic mindset was frozen (pun intended) until the early 60’s, some 30 years after Wegener’s death.

While the book is unfortunately not well written (too much jumping back and forth which causes repetition), it is worth a read. Wegener is a compelling figure with numerous accomplishments to his credit, and I enjoyed learning about him. If you’re in NYC before January 3rd, be sure to take in the American Museum of Natural History’s “Race to the End of the Earth,” an exhibit of southern polar conquest and exploration.