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Conquering the Impossible: My 12,000-Mile Journey Around the Arctic Circle [Paperback]

Mike Horn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 10 2008
In August 2002, Mike Horn set out on a mission that bordered on the impossible: to travel 12,000 miles around the globe at the Arctic Circle - alone, against all prevailing winds and currents, and without motorized transportation.
 
Conquering the Impossible is the gripping account of Horn's grueling 27-month expedition by sail and foot through extreme Arctic conditions that nearly cost him his life.  Enduring temperatures as low as -95 degrees Fahrenheit, Horn battled hazards including trekking on unstable ice that plunged him into frigid waters, encounters with polar bears so close that he felt their breath on his face, and a fire that destroyed all of his equipment and nearly burned him alive.
 
From the hair-raising dangers that Horn faces alone to his amusing and inspiring encounters with the hardy inhabitants of the remotest corners of the earth, this adrenaline-filled tale chronicle's one man’s unrelenting desire to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (June 10 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312382049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312382049
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #372,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Circumnavigating the globe at the equator wasn't enough for South African extreme adventurer Horn, so he promptly set out on a solo expedition to the North Pole. As he recounts in the opening chapters of his memoir, an attempt to tie a loose shoelace when the temperature was 76 below zero resulted in his thumb splitting open, the skin translucent all the way to the bone. And yet, just a few months after being treated for frostbite, Horn set out again, this time preparing to travel the entire perimeter of the Arctic Circle. This voyage has its own share of death-defying episodes, from multiple encounters with bears to a kayak ride through a maze of icebergs, not to mention the oppressive Russian bureaucracy. But it's also filled with charming interludes, like Horn's arrival at a Canadian mining town just days before it closes for good, or his tightrope walk along the top of a Russian oil pipeline. Through all these adventures, Horn reflects on why he feels compelled to push himself to such limits, comparing his trek to a rite of passage: It was inside myself that I took a long, long walk, he says. Readers will be grateful to share his experiences vicariously. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“This voyage has its share of death-defying episodes . . .but it’s also filled with charming interludes. Through all of these adventures, Horn reflects on why he feels compelled to push himself to such limits. ‘It was inside myself that I took a long, long walk,’ he says. Readers will be grateful to share his experiences vicariously.”

--Publisher’s Weekly


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IN 2000 AFTER MY TRIP AROUND THE WORLD following the equator, I began to look around for my next challenge with three conditions in mind: it had to be something new for me; it had to be at least as difficult as the last challenge; and, most important, it had to be something that no one had ever done before. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By smj
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed reading this book, it is well written, interesting. I was happy to sleep in my warm bed in my safe house after reading this. The only problem is the book is a successive account of nearly desperate incidents. Not enough focus on the beauty and the joy he must at some points enjoyed during this expedition. I read one disaster after another, and I did put the book down at one point growing a bit tired of all the "near fatal incidents".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless journey June 12 2007
By Spinozist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book details explorer Mike Horn's 2 year journey, all 12,000 miles of it, along the Arctic circle, in incredibly harsh conditions. I found it enthralling, fascinating and inspiring.
How do you travel solo in temperatures often 50 degrees below where perhaps noone has ever been before? For weeks on end? In case you're interested, you'll find a few tips here. Not least of his accomplishments is dealing with Russian bureaucacy as he travelled through northern Siberia, encountering deserted gulags and a town with only a single inhabitant. Brushes with polar bears, wolves, it's all here.
If you like adventure books, this is one that grabbed me and which I could not put down. Foremost, you'll feel the spirit of this man coming through. This is not someone else describing this mindblowing odyssey, it's the person who actually lived it. It was a privilege for me, an outdoors lover and Appalachian Trail hiker, to be able to share his journey. A possibly life-altering book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest, Most Unbelievable Story Sept. 5 2007
By Eli Anthony - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First off, this book caught my interest because I recognized Mike's name from a National Geographic article about Mike Horn & Borge Ousland's un-supported trip to the North Pole, on foot. This book is absolutely INCREDIBLE!
You get the man who experienced these things telling you about his own daily adventures around the top of the world. This book reads like the most epic, survival adventure you'd find in any fiction or movie. Except it really happened.
Mike Horn's journey takes you across Greenland, Canada, and of course northern Siberia. He faces nightmare situations repeatedly. More than 100 degrees below zero, he's done it. More than 70 mph winds, done that too. Tent catches on fire, in the Arctic, yeah, done that too. Sleeping on a frozen lake, with wolves clawing at the thin wooden door that's the only thing separating your guts from being dinner, check. Playing a game of "chicken" with a bear. Playing a game of chicken with Russian border guards. Yep!(I think he preffered the bear.)
You really get to know this man through his journey, as he gets to know himself better. His conflict with not wanting to leave his family, especially his daughters, for 2 whole years, versus his need to go and push his own limits. He plays out a conflict that I know burns within each of us. Some more so than others. It's something that I know I feel as well. I have gotten to know man better as well, as a result of reading this book... mankind that is.
I also learned interesting things about the cold and what it does to things like whiskey, and various materials that are used to make products for cold weather, and why so many of them are inadequate for such cold traveling as Mike did. Also, why do you want loose clothing for such a journey instead of tight, something Roald Amundsen knew as well. Oh, and a vital use for snot in such extreme conditions.
Once you start, you can't put this book down until Mike reaches his next stop, the next town, the nexr Radar shack, whatever that next bastion of safety from the cold is. Then you can relent, as does he. Then you can continue the next time, as he will the next morning. It's as though you're there with him, needing him to make it, so you can too.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, not necessarily a must read Feb. 7 2008
By Amy B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is not bad, it's actually quite interesting and very informative. If you're into learning new things, I definitely recommend it. There are lots of snippets on customs and traditions of the people of "The Far North," info on how to safeguard from frostbite, tips on how to go #2 at below zero temps, cool stuff about Arctic wildlife, etc., etc. Plus, the story is beautifully written, and Horn himself sounds like a decent guy to know, even if he does seem a little taken with himself ("If there was one reason I had made it this far, I think it was first and foremost because I believed in myself, and also because I had never let disappointments diminish my sense of hope. The other ingredients of the magic potion were a blend of experience and wisdom." p.191), and his idea of the Leave No Trace ethic is a little skewed ("I am one of those people who believe in a 'Leave No Trace' ethic, meaning... the only alteration we dare make to the scene is leaving footprints in the snow." Next paragraph, "I put the plastic bag containing the letters for my daughters on top of the trap, and then placed the stones on top of them." p.173).

Just don't pin your expectations by title alone, it is a bit deceiving. A better one would have been "Conquering The Impossible Is Possible With A Lot Of Help." I'm not saying just anyone can do what Horn did, be it alone or with help. But to call his trek a "solo expedition" when he had a veritable staff of sorts on stand by, jumping to attention, flying in to meet him with luggage and all kinds of replacement supplies and equipment whenever he ran into trouble, well that's stretching it just a wee bit.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An account of man challenging the limits of mental and physical endurance Jan. 19 2008
By Jessica Lux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Far North adventurer Mike Horn has written a testament to the physical and mental strength of the human spirit when tested with impossible challenges. For 27 months, Horn circumnavigated the Arctic Circle in a 12,000-mile solo journey. Without the aid of motorized transportation, Horn traipsed through Greenland, Canada, and Siberia. He faced challenges both natural and political, from fire and frostbite to a polar bear encounter to challenges with the Russian government. The very terrain under his feet consisted of dynamic, shifting ice sheets, which throughout the course of the journey required several detours and cost the explorer days and weeks of time.

Horn may have been on the journey alone, and he no doubt demonstrated awe-inspiring physical and mental endurance, but he had an army of support, from a gourmet chef who packed his meals to medical and athletic experts who could fly to meet him at a moment's notice. Throughout the book, the reader can not forget that money was not an object on Mike Horn's journey, and a rescue by the cavalry could have been staged if needed.

I thoroughly enjoyed Horn's adventure tale, which was educational as well as adrenaline-pumping. The reader will learn a great deal about the chemical behavior of different substances in extreme cold (Horn was in temperature down to -70°C!). Mucus, in fact, can be put to use under extreme conditions as a valuable moisturizer. I was also inspired by the skill and kindness demonstrated by the Inuit, Canadian, and Russian citizens Mike Horn encountered.

Fourteen months after Mike Horn conquered the impossible, he made a two-month journey to the North Pole in absolute winter darkness without the aid of any motorized transportation. I'll stay tuned for the volume on that adventure.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the end, what did this accomplish? Dec 8 2007
By Todd Gack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Over the course of about 2 years, Swiss adventure/publicity seeker Mike Horn circled the earth staying above the Arctic Circle the entire time. Using boats, kayaks, skis, kites, and his own feet, he endured harsh temperatures down to -100 degrees F, polar bears, wolves, mosquitos, and the Russians.

Did he do this alone? What, are you kidding me? He seemingly had a army of support people who would and could fly in just about anywhere to resupply Mike as required including restaurantuers bringing him gourmet meals. I had to laugh at one point where he was complaining about being bilked by some Russian handyman who wanted to charge him $100/hours to fix his boat when he had just mentioned he had bought a boat (his second of the trip) to carry him from Norway to his finish point. Money, it seems, was not really a problem on this trip.

In the end, what was really accomplished? From his perspective, he completed his journey alive and well but without providing any new scientific or cultural information. While the book read like one of those hairy chested men's adventure stories of the 50's and 60's, my impressions of it were more it was a vanity novel of yet another rich man with time on his hands.

Is it worth your investment in time to read this. Yes, I guess it is but there are many other adventure story books out there that provide a much heartier meal.
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