Conquering the Impossible: My 12,000-Mile Journey Around the Arctic Circle Paperback – Jun 10 2008
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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.
“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 WeeklySee all Product Description
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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.
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.
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.
I put this book down when he called his crew in to repair his boat and restock his supplies. I had to put the book down for good when he called his buddy in for a new tent, a re-stocking of food, and more gear. I'm not entirely sure of the aim of this book. He certainly makes it crystal-clear: he's going to be the first to circle the Arctic in some unique fashion. But it just doesn't feel extremely difficult. Stir in a little starvation, maybe a couple cans of spam, I don't know. I guess the adventure makes itself impossible, not the press conferences leading up to it.
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.