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Arctic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (March 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375404090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375404092
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Jonathan Waterman set out to cross the Arctic Circle by way of kayak, cross-country skis, and a dogsled, he was less interested in conquering the 2,200 miles between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans than in learning to live as the Inuit had before him (Inuit, for The People, is the name Canadian Eskimos prefer). Good thing, for the Arctic, as revealed in this candid and engrossing travelogue, is no place for jock-style adventure. Over the course of three summers, Waterman paddled through storms, capsized in 39-degree water, blacked out, and was bitten by thousands of mosquitoes, smoked out by exploding underground seams of coal, and chased by a grizzly bear. The land was so vast and empty that swans and bears vanished before him, ice chunks appeared as kayaks, and driftwood morphed into people in a disorienting series of mirages. Perhaps most challenging of all for Waterman was spending weeks at a time in this setting without seeing another soul. Under these circumstances, he had no choice but to draw on remnant instincts to avoid disaster, forget about time and goals, and to connect deeply to "the Earth and Its Great Weather," as the Inuit say. "Any committed adventurer eventually learns that equipment and performance are just a means to that greater end of finding your place in the natural world," writes Waterman, who proves he is willing to go the extra thousand miles for a moment of insight.

Of course, he also experiences moments of unparalleled serenity--caribou trotting out to his boat, belugas spouting around him, grizzlies on the shore--and creates warm friendships with the Inuit themselves, who have changed radically since their own days of traveling by kayak and dogsled. Waterman works admirably to understand The People without judging them, though he is discouraged by what he finds left of the culture he emulates--communities caught in a "depraved limbo, somewhere between paradise and tuberculosis." As with the Arctic itself, the Inuit turn out to be more complex in reality--and ultimately more appealing--than in mythology. Waterman's stark and satisfying account excels in its ability to grapple with the human condition while illuminating a mystical world inaccessible to the rest of us. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

In 1997, Waterman (In the Shadow of Denali) embarked on a series of solo journeys across the arctic, taking the southernmost water route through Canada's northern islands. During the first summer, he went west, from the Mackenzie River delta to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. In ensuing springs and summers, he completed his 2,200 mile odyssey, proceeding east in stages from the Mackenzie delta to Lord Mayor Bay. Waterman made most of the trips by kayak, but walked across the Eskimo lakes and took one snowmobile side trip with Inuit guides. He vividly portrays the arctic landscape, people, weather and wildlife, but as he reiterates ad infinitum, his goal was to experience solitude in the wilderness, and much of the book consists of self-absorbed ruminations on braving arctic waters alone in a kayak and pulling a sled across frozen lakes and tundra with only a dog for company. Waterman admits that he didn't get all that close to wilderness since he was supported by a wealth of modern technologies, from a Gore-Tex dry suit to a specially constructed kayak, and could fly home any time. His encounters with the Inuit and his candid observations of their culture and poverty-stricken, often brutal lifestyle provide the most interesting passages. Interwoven discussions of arctic explorers, the history of the Northwest Passage and the Hudson Bay Company, relations between the Inuit and the Canadian government, and anthropologists who have studied the Inuit flesh out his narrative. Though there is no map to help the reader follow his complex itinerary, Waterman includes appendixes of the birds and animals he saw, a Canadian arctic cultures timeline, a section on Inuit language and an extensive bibliography. 85 b&w photos and illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

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I am not surprised that it received the Best Book on Adventure Travel from the 2001 Banff Mountain Book Festival!
Karen Barkley
Waterman's humble approach to his journey and the Inuit culture is a reminder that, even in this time without heros, we will never lose our desire to search.
Kelcey C. Nichols
I was touched by the sincerity that Jonathan Waterman shares with his readers in this epic journey across Arctic Alaska and Canada.
Kim Heacox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jim kauahikaua on January 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am always amazed and delighted by Jonathan Waterman's skill with language, and with his ability to convey his explorations of both external and internal landscapes. This is a writer who loves wild places, but never seeks to conquer them.
Arctic Crossing gives readers a genuine view into the challenges of solitary travel, and a welcome understanding of the rich Inuit culture.
Waterman sugar coats nothing - not the cold, not the real dangers of his travels.Yet he captures the sweetness of learning to "watch birds" rather than identify, of a reunion with his wife that helps him regain his center. He catapults readers right into places in the world and in the heart that most would have never otherwise travelled.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stan Wagon on January 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Waterman's book succeeds on several levels. The most important is the treatment the author gives of the Inuit and Inuvialuit communities, their history, and his own interactions with them. The presentation is unsentimental and the reader is rewarded with a view of things as they are. The book presents the historical and present situations in a way that enhances our understanding, though it is by no means clear what exactly should be done by Canada or Nunavut to alleviate the problems. One can only wish the best for this amazing far-north culture.
From the point of view of adventure, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in solo exploration. Waterman is as experienced as they come in the realm of long, strenuous adventures in arduous conditions. He takes on this multi-year kayaking trek without a radio, even though he knows he is not an expert kayaker. While he deals with various problems and incidents, the most intriguing problem seems to be that of simply being alone for long stretches. He survives it, but it was apparently not easy.
Finally, the book succeeds in conveying the beauty of nature (landscape, seascape, birds, and animals) in this shoreline environment. For the author, and probably for most who have visited it, the Arctic is a very special place, and the book, in its prose, general spirit, and photographs conveys that. Regarding the pictures, I appreciated the fact that in addition to the standard color insert, which has excellent photos, the author and publisher have decided to include many black-and-white pictures in the text. These enhance the presentation a lot, especially compared to many adventure books that get published quickly and without real thought to the inclusion of the best photos.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Crangle on December 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Author Waterman does it again!
Arctic Crossing is a very readable and powerful solo tale of high drama in one of the most unforgiving corners of our planet. Jon's richly written tale captures the many moods of both a hauntingly beautiful landscape and the Inuit Culture that inhabit it. The myriad challenges faced by the author in his epic trek should be reason enough to lure virtually any adventure travel reader. Offering far more than yet another tale of polar endurance, Waterman's keen observations of Inuit Culture becomes the unexpected hook.
Having spent three years living in a remote Siberian Yupik Eskimo village, I found this book to be compelling in its honest appraisal of Indigenous Northern Culture. Rapid cultural change and its associated dysfunction which challenges many Arctic cultures is typically not well documented in print. That which exists often times is either candy coated or worse yet, over sensationalized. Reported with a sense of respect, Jon's accounting of cultural interactions are at times brutal, yet refreshingly accurate.
This book captures the unique rhythms of remote Arctic ecosystems through rich imagery. The author was very obviously moved by his time spent in the spare pastel light of the Barrens. His writing is focused on capturing that elusive essence of the Arctic experience that defies the average writer's efforts. Fortunately, Waterman is no ordinary writer.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautifully written! Unlike most adventure books, Waterman's account of his 3-year Arctic adventure, leaves behind the hero perspective and sincerely tells a story about the Inuit culture, the Arctic landscape and its amazing wildlife, and how he travels solo through it all. Find out what it would be like to journey alone without seeing another person (or signs of another person) for weeks at a time...how many of us have been completely alone, even for a day? His details of the people once called Eskimos are thoughtful and compassionate. The Inuit are faced with modern day assimilation while desperately trying to hold on to their 1,000 year old traditions. This struggle is carefully outlined, as he was able to get close to "The People". His encounters with wildlife, especially bears, made me wish I were there, but at the same time thankful to be reading about it in the comforts of home. This book is for anyone wanting to know the meaning of true exploration and wanting to learn more about the beuaty and mystery of the Arctic and Inuit.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Thackray on February 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Who was it who said, "less is more"? That's one truth that stands out in Jonathan Waterman's "Artic Crossing" - a epical solo trip of the Northwest Passage done without fanfare, without oodles of sponsorship dough. I liked the author's cool, understated writing style, the wry observations about his sufferings and about the Inuits. No hyperbole, none of self-inflation that is so common in adventure writing, this book is truly believable. A wonderful read.
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