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Barren Lands: An Epic Search for Diamonds in the North American Arctic Hardcover – Oct 16 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 1st edition edition (Oct. 16 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716740265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716740261
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #439,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

Diamonds spell adventure, and their lure is timeless, as evidenced by this compelling book. Magazine writer Krajick (Natural History, Newsweek) leaves few stones unturned as he presents not only a "diamond rush" in Canada's Northwest Territories during the 1990s but a history of one man's pursuit of this gem. The familiar names are here, including Charles Tiffany, Frederick Kunz, Cecil Rhodes, and the ubiquitous DeBeers. So, too, are the diamond mines scattered across the globe in India, South Africa, South America, the United States, and Canada. Scandals and scams have long been a part of diamond lore; the Great Diamond Hoax in 1872 Colorado rates a fascinating chapter of its own. The chief character featured throughout is Canadian Chuck Fipke, an eccentric, obsessed prospector and principal in the Lac de Gras/Ekati diamond mine (currently in operation in Canada's Barren Lands). A combination of arctic climate, corporate spies, and inexact geologic science, mixed with human greed, grizzlies, and prodigious amounts of insects and alcohol, turns the last half of Barren Lands into a suspenseful thriller. Miners, geologists, and rockhounds will be spellbound, but the appeal will easily extend to general audiences as well. This book is highly recommended for all libraries. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When we think of treasure hunters, we tend to think of gold or silver, but diamonds are rarer than either, and humans have been hunting them for half a millennium. Two such diamond hunters are Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson, the prospectors who struck it rich in a region of Canada's Northwest Territories called, appropriately enough, the Barren Lands. Their adventure is the centerpiece of this diamondhunting story, which combines excitement and danger, disappointment, tragedy, and the kind of luck that changes your life forever. Fipke and Blusson became extremely wealthy men; others who spent their lives in pursuit of the elusive glittering mineral were not so fortunate. Krajick, a journalist who reported on the Barren Lands diamond rush for Discover magazine, is a smooth storyteller with a novelist's ear for dialogue. But these aren't flamboyant fictional characters living out madeup lives; they're real people, and this is what really happened to them. A can't-miss for fans of reallife adventure. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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First Sentence
A thunderhead of mosquitoes attacked Chuck Fipke's entire body as he scrambled like a crab across the tundra looking for something. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Tillman on Dec 29 2003
Format: Paperback
-----------------------------------------------------------
Rating: "A" -- the obsession, hard work, heartbreak and good luck
required to make a multi-billion dollar discovery. Highly
recommended.
This is the story of the discovery of the Ekati diamond mine, in the
Barren Lands of the Northwest Territories, by Chuck Fipke, Hugo
Dummett, and others.
Hugo Dummett signed on with Superior Oil in 1978 to prospect for
diamonds in North America, just as the science of using indicator
minerals -- pyrope garnets, chrome diopside and chromite -- for
diamond exploration was being worked out. Superior started
prospecting around Arkansas's Crater of Diamonds -- now
inconveniently a State Park. Hugo and Mike Wolfhard hired Chuck
Fipke and his crew to sample the area. Lots of fun with jungly brush
and shotgun-toting landowners... Hugo even tried to sweet-talk Gov.
Bill Clinton into leasing him the park!
Fipke is a poster child for the space-case prospector-geologist, but he's
smart, has a sharp eye and was an *amazingly* hard worker. But a
*terrible* boss -- he drove his workers to exhaustion, and wouldn't
take elementary safety precautions, even on helicopter-supported
work. It's remarkable he didn't kill anyone [note 1].
The road to Ekati was not direct. Superior's exploration program (and
their competitors') went down the usual side tracks and dead ends --
including rediscovery of the salted site of a 19th century diamond
fraud. Then -- just as Fipke & company were developing some truly
good-looking Barren Lands prospects -- Mobil Oil bought Superior,
and summarily axed all Canadian exploration. Thud.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on Dec 30 2001
Format: Hardcover
Barren Lands by Kevin Krajick is epic nonfiction without artifice. The author does not create straw heroes or villains, but presents the story and its participants warts and all. The search for diamonds in North America is the story, and myriad searchers enter and exit during the tale's almost 500 years. The ultimate discovery of the source of North America's diamonds in the Canadian Arctic is the goal of the story. Charles E. Fipke, a person who presents a lot of reasons for the reader to dislike him, is the unlikely David in the story and De Beers, the company with a stranglehold on the World's diamond markets, is the Goliath.
Part of my interest in Barren Lands stems from my training as a geologist with an emphasis in mineral exploration. Part of the reason I became a high school earth science teacher has to do with my weakness at keeping scientific secrets. I knew that working for a mining or mineral exploration company would necessarily involve the nondisclosure of proprietary information and I knew that I couldn't do it. The tension between proprietary information and open scientific discourse is strongly portrayed in the book. Another reason for my interest comes from the fact that geology students of my generation were very aware of what these diamond deposits in North America should look like. I have been telling my 9th graders for years that somewhere in Canada there are some diamondiferous kimberlite pipes that have been glacially scoured and probably contain circular lakes, making them difficult to find. I have been telling them that someday someone would follow the diamonds in the glacial till covering northern North America back to the source of the diamonds.
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Format: Hardcover
...is certainly not always gold...or diamonds for that matter. This book, however shines from cover to cover. There is something for everybody in Mr.Krajick's book Barren Lands. In dealing witht the overall subject of the 400+ year search for diamonds in North America, the author took me through a graphic history of adventure, intrigue and science. Krajick's style of story telling brings the tale of the search for diamonds thru-out the world to life and kept me rivited page after page. After reading of how some folks just stumbled across diamonds in their back yards I will probably always have one eye to the ground from now on.
The more recent North America activities of Fipke and Blusson, around whom much of the book revolves, is told in a personal and intimate manner, as only an author with first hand experience and contact could have related. There is also a good dose of the author's wry sense of humor and irony thrown in throughout his book. Please take special note of his tips on how to use a port-o-potty in 40 degree below zero weather on the tundra.
Probably the best book since reading Stephen Ambrose's book about Lewis and Clarke, Undaunted Courage. My only disapointment was reaching the last page.
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Format: Hardcover
Did you know that in about half of the states of the US people have found diamonds? Diamonds of more than two carats have been found, for example, in Ohio and Alabama, and finding them is often just child's play. Kids are the ones who pick these gems up, because kids are close to the ground and always looking for treasures. Finding a reliable supply of diamonds is much more difficult; the ones found on the ground are often chance deposits that were dropped when a glacier melted, but the glacier must have carried them from somewhere rich in diamonds. There aren't many such places, and it was a surprise that over the past decade, the Northwest Territories of Canada were deemed to be diamond mining country. The eerie, exciting, and disturbing story of how this came to be is told in _Barren Lands: An Epic Search for Diamonds in the North American Arctic_ (Times Books) by Kevin Krajick. The lure of diamonds has proved inescapable for a certain class of men for centuries, and Krajick's book tells about some of them he met while he did his research.
The Barren Lands (yes, that is the designation you will see on maps) is a half million square mile region as far north as Americans can go. There are no roads and no people, and it is called barren because it is above the northern limits which trees can reach, Since diamond exploration has started, however, it could well be populated with workers producing gold, uranium, and other minerals. At the heart of the story of exploration here is Chuck Fipke, a weird little guy who does nothing to improve the image of geologists. When Fipke was in charge of a prospecting expedition, he drove his men ruthlessly, especially his own son with distressing ferocity ("When you're not eating or sleeping, you're working for me.").
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