This timely, credible and suspenseful eco-thriller begins when marine biologist Kathy McNeely finds oil-soaked penguins in a part of Antarctica where no oil spills have been recorded. What seems at first the residue of an earlier disaster soon acquires more sinister implications as McNeely, her Russian and American associates, and maverick archeologist Brian Huxley are caught in the web of TERCO--a U.S. conglomerate that has found something worth killing for beneath the Antarctic ice. Experienced adventure novelist Charbonneau ( Intruder ) convincingly presents the psychological and technical problems of Antarctic survival. His description of the final race, made by tractor and dog sled, to discover the real cause of the oil spill and stave off environmental disaster is gripping. Though the characters are conventional, they are appealing--including the huskies, whose personalities become as distinct as those of their masters. But the real protagonist of The Ice is Antarctica itself. Charbonneau's passion for this last unspoiled land infuses the book and inspires the reader. Even cynics will applaud as TERCO is frustrated by ``a bunch of goddamn birds'' and the people who care for what the penguins represent.