SSoP Podcast Episode 28 — Arctic: Otherworldly Beauty That Might Kill You

SSoP Podcast Episode 28 — Arctic: Otherworldly Beauty That Might Kill You

Monday, 27 September, 2021

The Arctic is the northernmost region on Earth, defined as the area within the Arctic Circle, a line of latitude about 66.5° north of the Equator. That circle at the top of the world includes the Arctic Ocean and a few bits of land: northern parts of Russia, the state of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and the northern tips of Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

Teeming with wildlife — polar bears, puffins, whales, seals, arctic foxes, and narwhals — the land and sea blend, ice reaching to the horizon and the sky in vast stretches of blue and white. It can seem quite romantic, this part of the globe with months of darkness and light at opposite ends of the calendar.

But as history tells, it’s also perilously dangerous, a place where humans are likely to lose their way, to freeze, or to simply disappear.

In this episode, we take a quick romp through the Arctic expeditions of the 19th century and get curious about the archipelago of Svalbard (150 islands off the coast of Norway). Then we discuss five books that transported us to the Arctic Circle, including lyrical nonfiction, adventure tales, and one ghost story that would make the bravest soul shake in their fur-lined boots.


Read the full transcript of Episode 28 — Arctic: Otherworldly Beauty That Might Kill You.

The Arctic Fury

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Arctic Dreams

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Dark Matter

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Dark Matter

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The Wolf in the Whale

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Good Morning, Midnight

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other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

  • To help you get oriented, ladies and gentlemen, the Arctic Circle:

map of the arctic circle

  • Exploration in the Northwest Passage was an Important Thing for more than 400 years. To get you oriented, here’s a map:

map of the arctic circle

  • And the trailer for the TV series based on Dan Simmons’ novel The Terror:


two truths and a lie

As Dave explained in his intro to Two Truths and a Lie, ‘Svalbard is a fascinating place. If you were going to go to the ends of the earth, you might pick Svalbard as one of the ends.’

  • Should you want to visit Svalbard (we really want to!), here’s an overview of getting to Svalbard. The most common route is a 3-hour flight from Oslo, Norway, to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen. However, you might consider a trip on an expedition ship. This post So you want to go to Svalbard? also has helpful info.

  • Is it really illegal to die in Longyearbyen, Norway?

  • The goal of the Global Music Vault is to ‘create a safe haven that protects and preserves the most precious and important world musical expressions of all times. From irreplaceable cultural and heritage music to the biggest modern day hits.’ Billboard Magazine has more on the project.

  • We name-dropped ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and Louis Prima in the show, we we’re taking that as an excuse for a musical interlude:

  • And just in case you want to listen to a pirate radio station in the abandoned Russian coal mining settlement of Pyramiden, Svalbard. It broadcasts music from 1902-1958. Listen here.
the university centre in svalbard
University Centre in Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia.


  • Jordana Max Brodsky was a guest on the Fictitious podcast to talk about her novel The Wolf in the Whale.
  • Book Club Babble shared a Q&A with Lily Brooks-Dalton about her novel Good Morning, Midnight. (Careful! This one includes a few spoilers.)

  • Related: The title of her novel comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

  • Good Morning — Midnight
  • I’m coming Home
  • Day — got tired of Me
  • How could I — of Him?

  • Sunshine was a sweet place
  • I liked to stay
  • But Morn — didn’t want me — now
  • So — Goodnight — Day!

  • I can look — can’t I
  • When the East is Red?
  • The Hills — have a way — then
  • That puts the Heart — abroad

  • You — are not so fair — Midnight
  • I chose — Day
  • But — please take a little Girl
  • He turned away!


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Looking at photos of the Arctic has us wishing (at least a little) that we could chuck our everyday lives to stow away aboard a research vessel cutting through the sea ice. Polar bears! Northern lights! Salty stories!
This post has everything good: Arctic adventure, polar bears, Arctic hares, tundra-inspired cuisine, and comfy accommodations. We encourage you to browse the stunning photos and bake this cake as soon as possible.
The Arctic is otherworldly. An expanse of sea, snow, icebergs, and majestic wildlife that's as likely to kill someone as beguile them. Add human ego, foibles, and dreams to the mix, you've got stories for the ages.

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