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In a Far Country: The True Story of a Mission, a Marriage, and the Remarkable Reindeer Rescue of 1898 Hardcover – November 20, 2006
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
When eight whaling ships became icebound at Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of Alaska, in January 1898, a rescue mission blessed by President McKinley was launched to bring the 275 stranded men reindeer meat to fend off starvation and scurvy. The Overland Relief Expedition drafted Tom Lopp, a missionary and advocate of turning native hunters into self-sufficient reindeer herders, who left his wife, Ellen, and children in Cape Prince of Wales, 55 miles across the Bering Strait from Siberia, and drove his 300-head herd 700 miles across ice and frozen tundra. The three-month trek by Lopp and several native herders was monumental, although the saga becomes anticlimactic when it turns out that the whalers' situation was less dire than reported. Along the way, Taliaferro (Tarzan Forever) describes how the Lopps had adapted brilliantly to the Alaskan wilderness, respecting the indigenous people—in marked contrast to fellow missionary Harrison Thornton, an imperious Southerner who was murdered by native peoples. Although a lucid and diligent storyteller who makes good use of period correspondence, Taliaferro isn't in a class with adventure standouts like Jon Krakauer or Sebastian Junger, and will be best appreciated by readers with a specific interest in Alaskan or missionary history. 8 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (Nov. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1897, eight whaling ships with 200 whalers aboard became trapped in the ice on Alaska's northern coast. Missionary Tom Lopp and seven Eskimo herders set out on a 700-mile journey across ice and frozen tundra at temperatures 60 degrees below freezing with 400 reindeer to rescue the whalers, who faced starvation and scurvy without reindeer meat. The murder involved a missionary who had come to Cape Prince of Wales with Lopp in 1890 and was shot to death by thugs three years later. Taliaferro, the author of biographies of Charles M. Russell and Edgar Rice Burroughs, chronicles the marriage of Lopp and his wife, Ellen, and their relationship with the Arctic's indigenous people. Taliaferro points out that Lopp's accomplishment would have received greater recognition had it not been eclipsed by two other events--the Spanish-American War and the Alaska gold rush. The book, with eight pages of black-and-white photographs, is rich in detail, a thorough account of a long-forgotten adventure. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Tom and Ellen Lopp were missionaries who came to Alaska in the early 1890's. Tom was a Presbyterian from Indiana while Ellen was a Congregationalist who hailed from Minnesota. Both were assigned to a mission at Cape Prince of Wales on the western tip of the Seward Peninsula. Only a month after meeting in July 1892 Tom and Ellen were married. As things turned out Tom and Ellen would start a family and spend the next dozen years ministering to the Eskimos at Cape Prince of Wales. The work was dirty, difficult and exhausting but proved to be extremely rewarding nonetheless. During their years at Cape Prince of Wales the Lopps opened a mission school and assisted in the effort to establish a herd of reindeer in the area. The man who had attracted both Tom and Ellen to Alaska through an advertisment in "American Missionary" magazine was one Sheldon Jackson. Jackson, who was at the time the general agent for education for the new U.S. Territory of Alaska was absolutely convinced that bringing reindeer to Alaska was the key to the regions economic future. Reindeer were indigenous to neighboring Siberia and had been used there for centuries as both a source of food and for transportation. Jackson envisioned teams of reindeer driven sleds moving people, commodities and even the mail throughout the Alaskan territory. At the same time Sheldon Jackson argued that the reindeer could replace the dwindling numbers of caribou as the primary source of food for the native Eskimo population. "In A Far Country" details how large herds of reindeer would eventually be established in several areas of the Alaskan wilderness. Finally, John Taliaferro spends a great deal of time chronicling what became known as the Overland Relief Expedition. At the end of the summer of 1898 a total of 8 whaling ships who were operating in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska became trapped in the ice and were unable to leave the area. It was feared that unless help arrived in time more than 200 sailors would eventually starve to death. The Overland Relief Expedition was organized and Tom Lopp was tapped to lead the final leg of this Herculian rescue effort. What an incredible adventure!
I found "In A Far Country" to be quite compelling reading indeed. The publishers quite wisely furnished a detailed map of the region at the beginning of the book and I found myself referring to it again and again. I find that inclusion of maps like this often greatly enhances my understanding of the events being discussed in the text. All in all this is a nicely written book about important history that has been largely forgotten. Recommended!