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Paddle to the Arctic: The Incredible Story of a Kayak Quest Across the Roof of the World Paperback – March 25, 2000


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Paddle to the Arctic: The Incredible Story of a Kayak Quest Across the Roof of the World + Paddle to the Amazon: The Ultimate 12,000-Mile Canoe Adventure
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (March 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771082657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771082658
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What do you do after you canoe from Winnipeg, Canada to the Amazon? Paddle a kayak from Hudson Bay 3,000 miles through the Northwest Passage, of course. The author of Paddle to the Amazon sets out on another epic and crazy adventure. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys kayaking.
Buffy
He doesn't even apologize for the patronizing, dictatorial way he treated her.
rklobstr
It's an interesting story by a very driven human being.
mark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By rklobstr on August 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Another reviewer thought this tale was presented without whining; I must wholeheartedly disagree. The author continually bemoans his chosen fate, actually saying things like 'when oh when will this end?' He went up there three times with insufficient experience & no guidance; continually misreads the terrain and the weather; then is surprised when it's a really hard trip. He has little to say about any beauty he might have encountered along the way because he's only paying attention to the schedule.

He constantly complained about being behind a completely unrealistic schedule and how his companion slowed him down. He doesn't even apologize for the patronizing, dictatorial way he treated her. She was making better choices than he and was often better able to figure out their location, yet he treated her like a nuisance. He even admits to driving her to exhaustion (requiring hospitalization), then gets mad at her for not continuing the trip with him. In hindsight while telling the story, he still has no realization that he could have handled things better.

For a potential explorer, this book may provide a good idea of what to expect in the Arctic. The different adventures he encountered are often entertaining, but his attitude in telling them was intolerable. I kept hoping his companion would smack him in the head with her paddle.

For comparison, Maria Coffey's "A Boat in our Baggage" and Chris Duff's "On Celtic Tides" are glorious, well-written stories of grand kayak adventures. Both authors submerse themselves in their surroundings in an attempt to fully appreciate the experience, and they are richly rewarded for it. They had nothing but positive expressions of even the toughest events. They were not merely trying to beat the clock like Don Starkell - their goal was to find the magic of new places. They found the magic and artfully put it on paper for us to enjoy.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chris R on June 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
With in the first chapter i was ready to put the book down. I admite reading this book is like seeing a bad accident, horrifying, yet i had to read on to see what tom foolery was next. At points it occured to me that this may have been a comedy. But no, this is the account of a determined, driven man with no common sense.

Starkell seems to see himself as a hero. With pride he tell of his follies one after another as though over coming each near fatal mistake was a virtue in its self. I dont know what is more amazing, that he lived to tell the story or that he is willing to admite the story.

I am a professional kayak instructor and expedition guide. I have used sections of this book in classes as case studies to see if the novice students can pick out the mistakes. They usually spot them right away.

If you want to know what you should never do on a kayak expedition this is the book for you. As to Mr. Starkell, god been watching over you, and it sounds like that is a full time job for him/(her).
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gerald A. Huntley on January 10, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I first read this book, some of the adventures seemed so implausibly stupid that I suspected that the story was a hoax. Rest assured, the events described - however improbable - really did take place. The book is a must read for anyone contemplating solo adventures in the Arctic, if for no other reason then to dissuade them. However, Starkell is hardly a suitable role model; those who are familiar with his adventure have described him as "a danger to himself and everybody around him". Nor can much be said for his character; he almost killed his partner by forcing her on when she was seriously ill, yet in his account of the episode, he talks of nothing but how frustrating it was to be behind schedule.

For a truly heroic account of this and other adventures, I highly recommend the account of the late Victoria Jason, who accompanied him on his first two trips. Her book, Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak: One Woman's Journey through the North West Passage, is an inspiring account of courage and generosity made all the more remarkable by the fact that all the while she was battling what turned out to be a terminal illness. Despite all obstacles, she nonetheless succeeded where Starkell failed -- and kept all her fingers and toes to boot.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nomad on August 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is like a train wreck. You want to do the decent thing and turn away but the gore is too compelling. This is a poorly written journal of an egotistical fool that mooched, sponged and thieved his way across the arctic. There was no-one that this creep wouldn't use, and when he's quite justifiably refused "good samaritan" help, he rants and raves about how unfair it all is.

His writing is nothing more than egocentric drivel about how brilliant and brave he is. Nothing about the beauty, the people or the history.

The journey was remarkable, but Starkells stupidity, incompetance, lack of planning and astonishing lack of ethics are a study on how not to make this type of journey. His methods of resupply consisted of sponging off people who likely couldn't afford it and stealing the rest.

Please don't buy this book. It might encourage this idiot to go kayaking again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Amato on August 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was simultaneously intrigued and repelled by this book. Starkell's story is told in first person narrative, and in the course of his journey we learn a lot about this man's complex character and motivations. From the beginning, it is apparent that he is haunted by having reached his 60th birthday. As he tells the story of his exceedingly hazardous journey, the tale takes on an almost ritualistic quality. The journey becomes a pilgrimage through which Starkell is attempting to exorcise the demon of approaching old age and infirmity. The ritualistic atmosphere is heightened by the hypnotic and obsessive ambition that drives this man.

What intrigued me about the book was Starkell's honesty and the incredible story he tells. Whether you like the man or not (and it is apparent that many reviewers do not) his story is compelling, and I found myself utterly absorbed, particularly towards the end of the book when it becomes clear that he is going to lose the race against the fast-approaching winter and ice. I also appreciated that Starkell tells his story honestly. The fear, loneliness, regrets, and doubts that afflict him throughout his journey are there for all to see.

However, while Starkell's single-mindedness can make for a fascinating read, it is also repelling in some respects. I couldn't help but draw comparisons between his attitude and those of some early arctic explorers who sought to "conquer" the land, and who felt nothing for the land itself or the people inhabiting it. Starkell's ambition unfortunately insulates him -- and, consequently, the reader -- from both the stark beauty of the arctic and the culture of the people who have lived there for centuries.

I could not put the book down because of its classic portrayal of a tragic figure.
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