Birthplace of the Winds: Storming Alaska's Islands of Fire and Ice

John Bowermaster, Author, Jon Bowermaster, Author
John Bowermaster, Author, Jon Bowermaster, Author National Geographic Society $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7922-7506-0
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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Bowermaster (The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa) admits that he is known ""more as a `writer' than as an `adventurer.' "" And indeed, his superb reporting and storytelling abilities animate and intensify this account of his 25-day kayaking and mountaineering trip through Alaska's Aleutian Islands with four other trekkers. In the glut of Alaskan adventure books of the last few years, this one stands out not just because of the remote Islands of Four Mountains. Bowermaster's clear vision and clean prose make for many pleasing, writerly moments: his honest catalogue of his own fear (""A certain amount of fear is good, makes you cautious. But how much is too much, before it becomes crippling?""), his interest in the Aleut inhabitants (though they invented the kayak, ""the Aleuts shared little boat-building knowledge from island to island... because they were usually at war"") and his ambiguous response to the land (""From a distance, it doesn't seem all bad, especially if you like extremes including lousy weather, tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanoes""). After exploring each island by land and sea and climbing the tallest Aleutian volcano, Bowermaster has produced a remarkable narrative that captures the intense history and beauty of a place most of the world will never visit. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)