Barren Lands: An Epic Search for Diamonds in the North American Arctic Hardcover – Oct 16 2001
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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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
Rating: "A" -- the obsession, hard work, heartbreak and good luck
required to make a multi-billion dollar discovery. Highly
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.").Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The book was exactly as described, arrived bang on time. These words were added to make twenty, the review minimum.Published on Dec 21 2011 by T. Czyczko
On October 17,2001, I submitted a harsh and critical review of Barren Lands, by Kevin Krajick, which is still being presented by Amazon.com. Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2002 by John S. White
Great story of the quest for diamonds. Just goes to show you, that if you are allowed to look you can find anything society wants. Read morePublished on Oct. 22 2002 by Energy Czar
In my work as a lapidarist (rock and gemstone cutter), I have heard many anecdotes and personal accounts regarding discovery of commercially viable gemstone deposits. Read morePublished on May 9 2002 by michael hendrix
Wow what a great story. Krajick manages to somehow intricately weave the history, science, and business of modern prospecting in a very fluid manner. Read morePublished on March 13 2002 by W. Corners
I am a graduate mining geologest and have worked within the mining industry many years. I found this book so packed full of interesting history of the diamond industry, the... Read morePublished on Feb. 17 2002 by Arnold C. Wood
This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand the history and geology of diamonds, what it takes to find them and what working as a mining exploration geologist or... Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2002
Geology is not usually one of my favorite topics. I remember slogging through John McPhee's interminable series of articles for The New Yorker and vowing to avoid the topic at all... Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2001 by Brett L. Gold
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