Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane

Ken McGoogan, Author . Counterpoint $28 (381p) ISBN 978-1-58243-440-7

McGoogan's fascinating biography focuses on a neglected figure from the early era of polar exploration. Born to a wealthy Philadelphia family in 1820, Elisha Kent Kane surmounted his poor health to embark on a series of globe-spanning adventures. Kent's attention turned to the Arctic when he was assigned as an assistant surgeon to an expedition searching for the lost British navigator John Franklin and an “Open Polar Sea” believed to surround the North Pole. Kent's first taste of the Arctic proved addictive and on his return to the States, he organized his own Franklin expedition. After his ship became trapped in ice off the coast of Greenland for over a year, Kane led a daring escape that brought most of his men back to civilization. A sympathetic and intelligent observer, Kane befriended the Inuits camped near his ship and adapted many of their practices for surviving the harsh climate. McGoogan's depiction of Kane's early life is perfunctory and lacking in historical context, but the story comes to life with the narration of the second polar expedition and Kane's doomed love affair with the spiritualist medium Maggie Fox. With his access to previously unknown Kane logbooks, McGoogan makes an impressive case for the bravery and importance of the explorer who first identified the Greenland ice sheet. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/11/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Paperback - 380 pages - 978-1-58243-532-9
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4434-0165-4
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-55468-484-7
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