World Federation of
Science Journalists

WFSJ Amundsen awardee publishes book on the Arctic

October 7, 2011 posted in Competitions
Toni Pou, based in Barcelona, one of 15 science journalists from all around the world who won a World Federation of Science Journalists competition to board the Canadian research icebreaker Amundsen for an extended stay in 2008, has published an award-winning book on his journey to the Arctic.

Pou’s Catalan-language publication of On el dia dorm amb els ulls oberts (Where the Day Sleeps with its Eyes Wide Open), is a combination of science reporting about the research – the people who did it, and the WFSJ reporters who covered it – all set against a background of the 19th century explorers who first brought news of the Arctic back to their European ports.

Book cover
On el dia dorm amb els ulls oberts (Where the Day Sleeps with its Eyes Wide Open)
The book combines Pou’s longstanding fascination with the Arctic, his education as a physicist, and his career as a science reporter. It started with his blogs at the time ( and his stories (in English) for the WFSJ website (

As a teenager, his interest in the Arctic was sparked by an Edgar Allan Poe novel. It started a lifetime of reading accounts by the real-life Arctic explorers – men like Shackelton, Scott, Byrd, and Roald Amundsen himself, whose name was given to the ship on which Pou sailed.

“After the journey, I spent a year and a half writing a book about Arctic research, the journey itself and the early polar explorers of the 19th century (Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, Robert Peary, John Franklin, and others).” The book is published by the Catalan publisher Empúries and is illustrated with photos by Pou.

Even before publication, the book received the Godó Award in Investigative Journalism, one of the most important journalism awards in Spain.

Pou says he “stole” the sentence used for the title from William S. Bruce, a Scot who took part in Arctic and Antarctic explorations in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“Even before travelling to the Arctic, I always wanted to write a book. I had written articles for magazines before the journey, but I always had in mind the idea of getting deep into one issue and writing a book about it. When I knew I was going to sail on board the Amundsen, I thought ‘This might be the opportunity.’”

Aboard the Amundsen, “in such a magnificent environment, observing the scientists and getting so much information about Arctic science, I realized I had all I needed to write one: interesting information about Arctic research, interesting experiences during the journey, interesting readings about early polar explorers, and, finally, the will to write it.”

He recalls conversations aboard ship with his colleague Lucy Calderón of Guatemala, today a member of the WFSJ board of directors. “We talked about the exciting experience we were living and the amount of scientific information we were getting, and that, all together, would make a fine book.”

From his reading about early polar explorers, Pou is vividly aware of the differences between those long-ago journeys and his own experience.

“They didn’t have icebreakers to sail through the ice, satellites to navigate, huge freezers to store tons of meat and fish, warm lightweight clothes, and the like.

“But still, I think they both have something in common: what the great scientist Richard Feynman called ‘the pleasure of finding things out.’ New places, new animals, new natural phenomena, new routes, etc.

“There were, there are and there will be economic reasons [to learn about the Arctic] related to geopolitical power. But I think that in the middle of the vast Arctic, feeling the cold and clean wind in your face, watching how the midnight sun turns the ice from white to oranges and reds, now and in the 19th century, curiosity remains.”

Pou (who uses Spanish, French, English and Catalan) is committed to writing in his native Catalan. “I think in Catalan, I feel in Catalan, so I write in Catalan.” But he would welcome a translation into other languages, “because that would mean that I could get to more readers.

“And that’s my goal: getting to people and showing them that scientific knowledge is our best tool to know what is close to the truth and what is false; that science is useful, deep and beautiful.”


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