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The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 Paperback – Oct 9 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Oct. 9 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385658451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385658454
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 16.5 x 4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 880 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The polar north has always lured the passionate mind, the eccentric, and the damned. Pierre Berton’s 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. Berton’s 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. There’s 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

This spirited history probes the 15-year search for Sir John Franklin's lost expedition in the mid-19th century and the Frederick Cook-Robert Peary controversy. "Readers who think the ultimate adventure took place at the South Pole should rediscover the Arctic explorations," said PW. Illustrated. Author tour.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
Before I picked up this book, I had no idea what a detailed and interesting history lay behind the explorations of the Arctic region. This is a truly fascinating book about man's determined quest to explore one of the last unexplored regions of the world.
This is a story of the search for the Northwest Passage, that elusive waterway that would let ships sail over the north of what is now Canada, instead of having to sail around the tip of South America. Even after the British had determined that the icy arctic conditions and the maze of islands made the Northwest Passage worthless as a commercial shipping route, they were still determined to find it anyway. Ship after ship headed to the Arctic to find the passage, sometimes spending two or three winters trapped in the ice, with only a few warm summer months each year in which to explore before the winter ice returned. Many men died, mostly because of the remarkable inability of the British Navy to learn from its mistakes, or more importantly, to learn from the natives, who had lived in the Arctic for thousands of years. The British sailors wore wool instead of fur and sealskin, refused to hunt (they didn't even know how), suffered from scurvy from their impractical diets, and hauled extremely heavy sledges over the ice with man power instead of dogs. Not only did the British fail to learn from the natives, but the natives also got less than their fair share of credit at the time for helping avert death and starvation for hundreds of expeditions over the years.
This is also a story of the quest to reach the North Pole. Early explorers held the belief that the top of the world was an open polar sea, and tried to sail all the way to the pole. Once that theory was abandoned, explorers tried other ways of getting there.
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Format: Paperback
If you like to read about the incredible world of Arctic exploration, this is a book you must read! Pierre Berton covers almost 100 years of man's effort to discover the Northwest Passage and the North Pole. Although it is a long read (over 600 pages) the author's wonderful storytelling style keeps you eagerly turning page after page. Each account seems to have been well researched and the facts are there for the reader to absorb. It is amazing to read how poorly the British were prepared for Arctic travel, how they refused to learn from the native people, yet how much they achieved in spite of their attitude. This book has a good message for us all. We can learn from others! Those explorers who did so, were a lot more successful in the long run. The book ends with Peary and Cook's claim to the North Pole. It is quite an account of two men who were more consumed with their image rather than the truth. Who was the greatest of the bunch? You'll have fun picking your winner. I vote for Roald Amundsen! This is a great book!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First thing, I ran out of Antarctic books to read. I've read them all. So, naturally, I had to find something else to read. First book I tried about Arctic exploration was Frozen in time. Excellent book. The Arctic was worth a second try. Here comes The Arctic Grail. Fantastic work. Couldn't put the book down. Learning about John Ross, Adolfus Greely, Soloman Andre, Robert McClure, John Rae and so on was a marvelous experience for me. The Artic's history is as fascinating has the Antarctic's.

You'll get a fine introduction to the Peary-Frederick A Cook rivalry. However, if you need to deepend your knowledge of that controversy, may I suggest "Cook and Peary, the Polar controversy resolved". Dr Cook is a fellow one has to know.

Back to the book at hand, you'll learn that the British Navy...learned absolutly nothing about polar travel and your appreciation of Robert Falcon Scott will sink even lower.

5 big stars for Pierre Berton.
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Format: Hardcover
I would like to recommend another book to anyone who has read "Artic Grail" -- it is by Edmund Bolles and is called "The Ice Finders" -- it picks up the story of Eliza Kane and his involvement with the discovery of the Ice Age through his ovbservations of the Humbolt Glacier (which he named) while stuck on the western shore of Greenland in 1856-1858 -- its a short book about the length of one chapter from Artic Grail but very interesting, an excellent postscript. No one believed glaciers could be so big to form valleys, much less cover europe, despite all the geological evidence -- it was Kanes description of the Greenland icesheet that finally turned the science community around after 20 years of debate. "The Ice Finders" weaves the tale of Kane and 2 other scientists who went from ignorance of glaciers to a grand theory of an Ice Age.
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Format: Paperback
I was already a great fan of Pierre Berton, as well as being very interested in arctic exploration and history, so it was a natural that I picked this book up. I wasn't disappointed. This may be the best book that Berton has written. For certain, the material is irresistable. There were sections where it sounded as though Berton lost his temper at the imbecilic and entrenched attitudes of some of the explorers. This book is often a testament to man's unwillingness to adapt, and the down the nose view of Europeans of the exploration era to other cultures. Only this time, it was the Europeans that paid the price for their snobbery.
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