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Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship Hardcover – October 15, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Captain John Buddington of New London, Conn., set out on a whaling expedition in September 1855, he discovered the HMS Resolute, a British navy ship without a soul on board. How the Resolute made it from its British home port to Arctic Sea whaling territory to a central place in the White House's Oval Office makes up the core of this gripping historical adventure. Describing the explorers who set out to conquer the Arctic "Otherworld" as the "astronauts of their day," Pulitzer nominee Sandler creates a taut, absorbing story and a multi-faceted portrait of heroism that encompasses the overwhelming missteps, hardships and almost irrational tenacity that sprung from British naval secretary John Barrow's decision that Britain would discover the fabled Northwest Passage around the new world-a task he believed would take no longer than "a single season." That decision would be followed by 40 years of failed search-and-rescue missions-of which the Resolute was just one-after the initial 1845 voyage, led by Captain John Franklin, disappeared. The discovery of the Resolute represented both a vital clue in Franklin's disappearance and a haunting symbol of its nation's inexhaustible determination to make navigating the passage a uniquely British triumph. Sandler eloquently illustrates how the expedition became a new quest for the Holy Grail and provides an adventure story worthy of that tradition. 20 photos, 30 b/w illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Though there are plenty of detailed works about specific Arctic expeditions, a general history suffices for some readers. Sandler surveys the famous quest for the Northwest Passage, which the British navy actively pursued from 1818 to the early 1850s, when Robert McClure and crew made the first complete passage. But his renown was then and has ever since been eclipsed by the man he and several other commanders were dispatched to find: Sir John Franklin, whose disastrous fate is relayed in Ice Blink, by Scott Cookman (2000). Among the many stories Sandler tells, the strangest concerns a ship, the Resolute, which was abandoned by another of Franklin's would-be rescuers. Somehow, the Resolute drifted back to civilization, was discovered by an American whaling ship, and was returned to an appreciative Britain obsessed with any trace of Franklin. Later, Queen Victoria had a desk hewn from the Resolute and given to President Rutherford Hayes; it today occupies the Oval Office. Endowed with dozens of images, Sandler's enticement to a popular topic in exploration history is well suited to library requirements. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling; First Edition, Third Printing edition (October 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402740859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402740855
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bobby D. on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What an historic HOOK this book has. In 1854 the HMS RESOLUTE is in the Artic searching for the lost John Franklin expedition. The RESOLUTE's captain gets stuck in the ice and abandon's the ship. A year later an American whaler discovers the RESLOTE drifting and deserted. The United States government reconditions the RESOLUTE and presents it as a gift to the Queen as an act of national friendship. Years later the Queen had the remains of the RESOLUTE carved into an ornate desk as a gift for President Hayes. And today that same desk still sits in the Oval Office. (Remember the famous picture with John John sticking his head out of JFK's desk.) This story alone would make for a great book but in what is a short 248 page narrative Mr. Sandler covers the totality of the British and American expeditions to the Artic as they all are in a rush to discover the Northwest Passage. Each chapter in the book is an example of excellent story telling covering a separate event or adventure. All amazing pieces of the story to building the big picture of what it took to explore and survive in the Artic. This is a fun, all be it light, overview of a topic you may not have given any consideration. I found the book very educational, entertaining, and very well presented. It even has an 18 page Epilogue reviewing what happened to the 36 explorer that make up the various expeditions. I might add here that I would recommend more highly the excellent book, The Ice Master about the doomed 1913 voyage of the karluk. This book really gets into the personal business of survival, luck and a super story. But not doubt about it, Martin Sandler has written a very entertaining page turner although with a more global overview.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ralph White on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
It is exceptionally rare for a work of non-fiction to transport the reader to a landscape so alien that it defies the imagination, to meet characters whose particular combination of courage, determination, ingenuity, and vision drive them to feats beyond all experience. Resolute is such a story and were it not for Martin Sandler's scholarly writing, his copious end notes, appendices, and biographic epilogue, the reader might be forgiven for thinking it just so much fiction. But the images of skeletons languishing in open boats, of message cairns against bleak snowswept horizons, and the thought of hundreds of men cowering in the cold and dark for month after mind-numbing month awaiting the spring to break up the ice seizing their ships, cannot help but shock the modern reader. Sandler's scholarly history of the search for (and discovery of) the Northwest Passage, and of the search for the men who disappeared there both thrills and haunts us. It is extraordinary how much treasure, planning, and hope went into England's quest for a commercially viable route over the northern boundary of North America, but it is equally remarkable how large a role was played by wanton ignorance. The gentlemen (nearly all were eventually knighted), who took this stage, very rarely consulted the people who knew most about the geography and the terrain, that is, the whalers and the Inuit natives. And the disregard for fundamental science is startling. How could Second Secretary of the Admiralty, John Barrow, whose orders sent so many men into those icy seas, ever have imagined that the ice that blocked the sea at lower latitudes would somehow vanish as the pole was approached? And sending those men out with what amounted to experimental food canning technology amounted to negligent homicide.Read more ›
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By RB Colorado on January 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Sandler can write well. The research quality is high. However, the completion of the book and its final editing are of very poor quality.

Several times in the book, very important small segments of the narrative are missing. For example, the book describes how McClure's ship gets frozen hard in the ice in Mercy Bay on Banks Island. It also describes how a sledging expedition from the Resolute gets to Winter Harbor on Mellville Island about 170 miles away and finds a message in a container from McClure. However, the event where McClure sledged from Mercy Harbor to Winter Harbor and back is entirely missing from the narrative. Thus, the narrative makes no sense. This omission is typical in the sloppy finish work of this book. Important earlier events that provide a logical understanding of subsequent events are randomly omitted from time to time.

Additionally, while Sandler puts forth a dozen good maps of the nineteenth century Artic, at least one quarter of the place names used in the narrative are not on any map. As it is unlikely that any reader has a nineteenth century Artic map, this makes the narrative completely unfathomable at times. There was an era when the creation of maps in history books was extremely expensive and horribly time consuming. This era is gone; any quality editor could check and rectify this significant problem with a full hard day's work.

Despite Sandler's good research and clear writing skills, I would not recommend this book. The book "Barrow's Boy's" is clearer and much better organized even though it is missing some excellent research on the personal qualities of the leaders that is found in Sandler's treatment here.
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