In 1906, from atop a snow-swept hill in the ice fields northwest of Greenland, hundreds of miles from another human being, Commander Robert E. Peary spotted a line of mysterious peaks looming in the distance. He called this unexplored realm "Crocker Land." Scientists and explorers agreed that the world-famous explorer had discovered a new continent rising from the frozen Arctic Ocean.Read more...
In 1906, from atop a snow-swept hill in the ice fields northwest of Greenland, hundreds of miles from another human being, Commander Robert E. Peary spotted a line of mysterious peaks looming in the distance. He called this unexplored realm "Crocker Land." Scientists and explorers agreed that the world-famous explorer had discovered a new continent rising from the frozen Arctic Ocean.
Several years later, two of Peary's disciples, George Borup and Donald MacMillan, assembled a team of amateur adventurers to investigate Crocker Land. Before them lay a chance at the kind of lasting fame enjoyed by Magellan, Columbus, and Captain Cook. While filling in the last blank space on the globe, they might find new species of plants or animals, or even men; in the era of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, anything seemed possible. Renowned scientific institutions, and even former president Theodore Roosevelt, rushed to endorse the expedition.
What followed was a sequence of events that none of the explorers could have imagined. Trapped in a true-life adventure story, the men endured howling blizzards, unearthly cold, food shortages, isolation, a fatal boating accident, a drunken sea captain, disease, dissension, and a horrific crime. But the team pushed on through every obstacle, driven forward by the mystery of Crocker Land and faint hopes that they someday would make it home.
Populated with a cast of memorable characters, and based on years of research in previously untapped sources, A Wretched and Precarious Situation is a harrowing Arctic narrative unlike any other.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-31
- Reviewer: Staff
Life in the extreme north was a hellish ordeal for early 20th-century American and Inuit explorers, as described in this exciting adventure saga. Historian Welky (The Thousand-Year Flood) recounts the 1913 expedition to find Crocker Land, a possible continent in the Arctic Ocean that was glimpsed by Robert Peary during an earlier failed attempt on the North Pole. The trek took the explorers to Greenland and then hundreds of miles west across rugged Ellesmere Island and onto the frozen sea. Drawing on extensive expedition diaries, Welkys absorbing narrative highlights the perils of polar travel, including ice that piled up in impassable ridges or broke beneath ones feet, fractious sled-dogs, lethal weather, frostbite, disease, starvation, and exhaustion. Its also a vivid account of the culture clash between grandiose Americans and the pragmatic Inuit communities they relied on for survival, and an absorbing study of how humans warp under pressure: the men on one sled-trip that ran into a blizzard descended into madness and murder, and expedition members stuck in a cabin during months-long winter darknessthanks to unlucky weather that iced in rescue ships and marooned the Americans in Greenland for four yearspicked mercilessly at one another. This is a classic explorers narrative, pitting ambition against the limits of endurance. Photos. (Nov.)