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.
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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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved