Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Across The Top Of The World

Illus. credit: Perseus Academic

Across The Top Of The World: The Quest For The Northwest Passage

By James P. Delgado (202pp., 1999, Checkmark Books, New York, NY)

The name for the Arctic comes from the Greek “arktos” (bear) because it lies beneath of constellation for the Great Bear. The normal seasonal temperature extremes, summer to winter, range between 50-deg. down to 60-deg. below zero. Polar ice ranges in thickness from 2 to 14 feet thick.

The kayak date of origin is unknown, but may date as far back as 2,000 B.C. The frames were made of anything that could be lashed or pegged together, such as driftwood and bone. To cover it required five caribou or nine seal skins waterproofed with seal oil, and are normally recovered yearly.

I’d strongly recommend this book, especially for those with no prior reading on the Arctic. It is heavily illustrated with paintings, drawings, and photography of actual events. There’s even the exhuming of one of Franklin’s men during an archeological expedition. Buried in the permafrost, he is completely preserved as if he just laid down for a rest with his eyes open a few minutes ago rather than over a century and a half ago. This book will give you as clear an understanding of the Arctic, as well as the hardships endured in exploring it, as you’ll get without making the trip yourself. You can follow every step from John Cabot’s voyage in 1497 to the first successful submarine transit of the Northwest Passage by the USS Seadragon in 1960.

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