Sources: Antarctica and the Arctic Circle: A Geographic Encyclopedia of the Earth’s Polar Regions

Antarctica and the Arctic Circle: A Geographic Encyclopedia of the Earth’s Polar Regions. Edited by Andres J. Hund. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 2 vols. Acid free $189 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-392-9). Ebook available (978-1-61069-393-6), call for pricing.

Although calling itself a geographic encyclopedia, the scope of this two-volume set is broader than such a designation suggests. Hund has attempted to encompass a large range of information about a vast area, perhaps a bit much for a modest two-volume set. Attempting to address in a meaningful way topics in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and applied sciences for both poles in approximately 350 entries and fewer than 800 pages is ambitious. His stated “central feature . . . the original inhabitants of the Arctic region” (xi) would, alone, merit a work of this size. John Stewart’s larger, two-volume Antarctica: An Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (McFarland, 2011) is more limited in both geographical and topical scope.

A significant strength of this set is as a starting place for research. The entries are significantly more in depth than those in Stewart’s work or in David McDougal and Lynn Woodworth’s single-volume The Complete Encyclopedia: Antarctica and the Arctic (Firefly, 2001). The entries most often present a cohesive and reasonably in-depth discussion of a topic, essentially reading much like journal articles, with less direct citation and a less complete list of references. Beyond this, most entries are followed immediately by a further-reading section composed largely of scholarly articles and books, government and nongovernmental organization documents, and other authoritative sources. This differs from the placement of references at the end of the two volumes, as in Stewart’s set, and the seeming entire omission of citations, as in David McDougal and Lynn Woodworth’s work. The latter seems almost impossible without violating intellectual integrity and undermines the substantial value of encyclopedic works as sources of research leads and direction.

In contrast to the “direct entry” organization adopted in Antarctica: An Encyclopedia, the signed, article-length entries in Hund’s work rely on an index and cross references to enable readers to locate related topics and information on a more granular scale than the major articles, as well as under alternate terminology. The indexing is in volume 2 only and, unfortunately, is somewhat inconsistent. Animal species may be indexed by common name, scientific name, or both; common names may be indexed at different levels such as “elephant seal” versus “southern elephant seal”; and the variant or variants used in the entry do not seem to be a very good guide to what will be indexed. In notable contrast to the indication given by the subtitle, geographic locations are not described in this encyclopedia at as fine a level as in Stewart’s set, nor as comprehensively.

The sparse illustrations are entirely black-and-white and often seem to do little to enhance the informational value of the content. They do add some interest and some do contribute to the entry. The set clearly lacks the impressive visual appeal of McDougal and Woodworth’s work, but has more visual elements than Stewart’s, which has not so much as a map or a table.

These three major reference works on the polar regions complement each other well. However, if you must limit your selections, for the most comprehensive geographical information, John Stewart’s Antarctica: An Encyclopedia would be preferred. McDougal and Woodworth’s volume would be the clear choice for visual appeal. As a broader scope research resource for undergraduate or graduate students, or for the strongest presentation in natural, social, and political sciences, Hund’s work would be an excellent choice and is recommended.—Lisa Euster, Reference Librarian, Brooks Library, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington

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