After Columbus found his voyage to Asia unexpectedly blocked by the New World, one driving goal of explorers was to find a way around it. To the south, the Strait of Magellan is one of the most difficult journeys in the world; it seemed only reasonable to expect that a more comfortable alternative would lie to the north.
In the event, of course, the world is not designed for human comfort, and the Northwest Passage is incredibly arduous and not particularly useful. But the search motivated Arctic exploration and adventure for hundreds of years, and inspired many gripping or tragic adventures. Arctic archeologist James Delgado relates these tales--the voyages of the Norsemen, Henry Hudson, Sir John Franklin, and others--with a rare combination of verve, historical context, and lots of illustrations. Maps, photos, and images from different eras make Across the Top of the World a fascinating book for browsing or for concentrated reading. It's an invaluable companion--reference, atlas, and history--to any other book about polar exploration and adventure. --Mary Ellen Curtin
From Publishers Weekly
Like George Mallory, Sir John Franklin died at an icy extreme of the globe. The cumulative efforts of those who followed Franklin (1786-1847) into the Arctic in order to discover what became of him eventually led to the charting of the Northwest Passage, a sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the coast of North America. The history of the European quest for the Passage is full of dramatic stories of men at their best and worst in harsh conditions. Delgado's workmanlike history stretches from Martin Frobisher's voyages (1576-1578) through the doomed expedition of Franklin (1845-1847) to Norwegian Roald Amundsen's successful voyage through the Passage in 1906. The saga is filled with cannibalism, lack of foresight, heroism, resourcefulness, greed and the stiff upper lips of 19th-century British naval officers weathering the rigors of Arctic winters. Delgado, executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, gives blow-by-blow accounts of all the major voyages, noting those commanders, such as William Parry (1790-1855), who exhibited good judgment and a respect for the Arctic natives and those who, like Frobisher, confronted both the landscape and its inhabitants with imperial contempt. Delgado clearly did thorough research in an effort to place as many pertinent facts as possible between two covers. The result is an account of the European encounter with the Arctic that is stronger on detail than on drama. But the book is a spectacular reference. Readers who wish to read further about the Arctic would do well to have Delgado's book handy as they read Parry's journals or Barry Lopez's beautiful Arctic Dreams. 80 full-color photos; 100 b&w illus.; 6 maps; bibliography; index. BOMC and History Book Club alternates. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.