December 6, 2011

Who Knew Arctic Ice Was This Interesting? A Book Review of Arctic Obsession: The Lure of the Far North

Arctic Obsession: The Lure of the Far North chronicles centuries’ worth of exploration into the Arctic—from the ancient Greeks to valiant Vikings to modern day scholars. For millennia an astonishing number of men have heard the call of the ‘Arctic Siren’ and set off into this unknown realm.

Although the Vikings had been familiar with Siberia, Greenland, and parts of North America for centuries; few other European groups paid much attention to the Arctic region until southern explorers failed to find a sea-route to the East. Arctic exploration boomed in the late 16th century, and voyagers began a quest for a Northwest Passage to China that would last for centuries.

Familiar explorers such as William Barents, Henry Hudson, and Vitus Bering feature large, but so do lesser known pioneers such as Jens Munk, Semyon Dezhnev and Fridtjof Nansen. Time and again these intrepid men survived months (and sometimes even years!) trapped in ice or lost in forbidding landscapes. Some managed achievements such as mapping new territories, taking flora and fauna samples, and recording information about native cultures. Other ventures ended in privation, scurvy, and even cannibalism.

Troubetzkoy has written a fascinating book in which the call of his Arctic Siren rings clear. The stories of survival and exploration are interspersed with absorbing information about the lands and peoples of the five Arctic nations (Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark); their customs, their histories, and their possible futures. Arctic Obsession ends with ominous warnings about the sustainability of the Arctic climate, and whether future generations will even have the opportunity to listen for the Arctic Siren.

I adored this history part of this book. It was full of fascinating adventures and courageous historical figures that I was largely unfamiliar with, except for the obvious ones like Henry Hudson. The global warming/future of the Arctic part was less interesting to me, but I still highly recommend this book to lovers of history or adventure books.

Should I recommend this to my grandma? Absolutely. Although grandpa might like it even more.
Rating? 4.5 out of 5

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I originally wrote a version of this review for Shelf Awareness.