Arctic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture

Jonathan Waterman, Author Alfred A. Knopf $29.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-40409-2
In 1997, Waterman (In the Shadow of Denali) embarked on a series of solo journeys across the arctic, taking the southernmost water route through Canada's northern islands. During the first summer, he went west, from the Mackenzie River delta to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. In ensuing springs and summers, he completed his 2,200 mile odyssey, proceeding east in stages from the Mackenzie delta to Lord Mayor Bay. Waterman made most of the trips by kayak, but walked across the Eskimo lakes and took one snowmobile side trip with Inuit guides. He vividly portrays the arctic landscape, people, weather and wildlife, but as he reiterates ad infinitum, his goal was to experience solitude in the wilderness, and much of the book consists of self-absorbed ruminations on braving arctic waters alone in a kayak and pulling a sled across frozen lakes and tundra with only a dog for company. Waterman admits that he didn't get all that close to wilderness since he was supported by a wealth of modern technologies, from a Gore-Tex dry suit to a specially constructed kayak, and could fly home any time. His encounters with the Inuit and his candid observations of their culture and poverty-stricken, often brutal lifestyle provide the most interesting passages. Interwoven discussions of arctic explorers, the history of the Northwest Passage and the Hudson Bay Company, relations between the Inuit and the Canadian government, and anthropologists who have studied the Inuit flesh out his narrative. Though there is no map to help the reader follow his complex itinerary, Waterman includes appendixes of the birds and animals he saw, a Canadian arctic cultures timeline, a section on Inuit language and an extensive bibliography. 85 b&w photos and illus. (Apr. 6)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-1-58574-730-6
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-0-679-31090-7
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