The polar north has always lured the passionate mind, the eccentric, and the damned. Pierre Bertons The Arctic Grail
is a substantial chronicle of these explorers, some of whom sought an economical northern route to the East and others adventure and fame, not to mention the backers who supported their primarily marine expeditions. Bertons prose reads like good fiction, providing insight into the lives of the men who journeyed north--and those left behind hoping for their safe return. I would not recall you, wrote Isabella Parry to her absent husband in her diary. Your path leads to glory and honour and never would I turn you from that path when I feel it is the path you ought to go....
The obstinate pride of the planners and leaders of these expeditions commanded respect from their peers despite a recurring failure to learn from past, often fatal errors. The icon of the north, John Franklin, who through his disappearance became the symbol of nineteenth-century Arctic exploration, is but one of the players. Other less familiar names figure in. Theres John Ross, whose 1818 expedition was one of the earliest. And William Edward Parry, whose failed 1824-1825 voyage to find the Northwest Passage resulted in the wrecking of his vessel The Fury. And first officer W. Parker Snow, who specialized in tall tales of the murder of John Franklin by Eskimos. Each contributes to The Arctic Grail a sense of adventure, passion, and perseverance in the face of all that nature can unleash. --Tim Tokaryk
From Publishers Weekly
The literature of Arctic exploration teems with exciting stories of hardship, valor, conflict and mystery. There are three distinct periods of exploration: the quest for the Northwest Passage by the British Navy, the 15-year search for the lost Franklin Expedition and the attempts to reach the North Pole. Berton ( The Mysterious North ) combines these voyages into a single narrative that focuses on the explorers. We see the mindset of the British, unwilling to take advice from whalers and, for 90 years, refusing to avail themselves of the dogsleds and Eskimo clothing best suited to Arctic conditions. We follow the progression from the desire for discovery and scientific knowledge to obsession with national pride and personal ambition. Berton examines in detail the Cook-Peary controversy and concludes that both men were charlatans and neither reached the North Pole; modern scholarship supports this theory. Readers who think the ultimate adventure took place at the South Pole should rediscover the Arctic explorations. Illustrations.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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