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Queen Maud Land, Antarctica
Dallmann Mountains, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDallmann Mountains, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica - Credit: Diorit

In 1942, driven by personal tragedy, Joe enlists in the American war effort. Instead of being sent to Europe to fight Nazis, he is stationed in Antarctica. He is responsible for watching for German activity in Queen Maud Land, a 2.5 million-square-kilometer sector claimed as a dependent territory by Norway in 1938.  The area borders British Antarctic territory and Australian Antarctic territory.  Most of the territory is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet.  It is extremely inhospitable, and there is no permanent population. 

In January 1939 a German expedition laid claim to part of Queen Maud Land, naming it New Swabia.  The expedition, Germany’s third to Antarctica, was undertaken in secret. Its goal was to find a suitable site for a German whaling station, as well as possible locations for a German naval base. The expedition established a temporary base and undertook extensive mapping of the area.  In January 1941, German commandos captured a number of Norwegian factory ships in the sea north of Queen Maud Land. The German Navy subsequently used a harbour on Kerguelen Island as a base from which to attack Allied shipping.  

Today, Queen Maud Land is administered as a Norwegian dependent territory under the Antarctic Treaty System.

In an interview with Powells.com, Michael Chabon likened Joe's extreme isolation in the Antarctic to Superman's glacial fortress of solitude.