In a Far Country: The True Story of a Mission, a Marriage, a Murder, and the Remarkable Reindeer Rescue of 1898

John Taliaferro, Author . Public Affairs $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-58648-221-3

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)

Reviewed on: 09/04/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
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