The year is 1868, and fourteen-year-old Alika and his younger brother, Sulu, are hunting for seals on an ice floe attached to their island in the Arctic. Suddenly the ice starts to shake, and they hear a loud crack--the terrible sound of the floe breaking free from land. The boys watch with horror as the dark expanse of water between the ice and the shore rapidly widens, and they start drifting south--away from their home, their family, and everything they've ever known.
Throughout their six-month-long journey down the Greenland Strait, the brothers face bitter cold, starvation, and most frightening of all, vicious polar bears. But they still remain hopeful that one day they'll be rescued.
This thrilling new adventure story from bestselling author Theodore Taylor is a moving testament to the bond between brothers--and to the strength of the human spirit.
Includes a map, a glossary of Inuit words and phrases, and an author's note..
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
THEODORE TAYLOR is the author of many award-winning and acclaimed middle grade and young adult novels, including The Maldonado Miracle, The Boy Who Could Fly Without a Motor, The Weirdo, the modern classic The Cay, and its prequel-sequel, Timothy of the Cay. He lives in Laguna Beach, California.
THE HAYES ARCTIC EXPEDITION, 1860-61:
One incredible ice floe covered twenty-four square miles. It rose twenty feet above the sea and reached an estimated depth of 160 feet. The estimated weight was six thousand million tons, a floating glacier, expanding year by year, as the ancient ice, hundreds of years old, remained frozen, fresh snow accumulating and congealing into new ice above.
Alika, hand on his harpoon, his unaaq, ready for an instant kill, had been at the seal hole, the aglus, for three hours. His younger brother, Sulu, who had begged to join him on the hunt, napped beside him on the sledge. They were on the west edge of a large, thick ice floe attached to land in the Greenland Strait, waiting for a shiny seal head to appear. The floe was old. Perhaps it had broken off from North Greenland and had drifted across the narrow strait, refreezing against the remote Ellesmere Island bank.
The time was mid-October 1868, on the eve of the long winter darkness. The shallow noon light was already fading. Snow had fallen a week earlier and would stay until almost June. The caribou were mating, char were spawning, and the sea ice was forming. All over the Arctic, inhabitants, both human and animal, were preparing for the frozen siege.
Jamka, the lead sledge dog, had sniffed out the small hole where he expected a ringed seal would soon surface to breathe, and Alika had prepared for the day's hunt by building a windbreak of snow blocks and a snow-block seat next to the aglus that he covered with a square of polar bear hide to keep his bottom warm. An indicator rod of caribou bone was in the hole. When a seal came up, it might touch the thin rod, wiggling it and alerting him.
Many of Alika's elders often waited a day or two for just a single strike at the wily ringed seal or the bearded seal, the only two to spend the entire year above the Arctic Circle. But Alika didn't have the patience of his elders, and a worried glance at the snow-laden sky told him they should soon start for their village of Nunatak, which was seven miles south. A northwest gale was approaching. Alika could feel it coming, with its thick wind-driven snow. Winter weather was usually predictable eight hundred miles southwest of the North Pole. The stars had twinkled brightly the night before, often a sign of bad weather.
Descendants of the Thule people who had first settled in the north a thousand years before, fourteen-year-old Alika and his brother, ten-year-old Sulu, were Inuit, meaning "mankind," and their diet was mostly from the sea, mostly cooked.
Alika said to Jamka, "You promised me a seal a long time ago."
The Greenland husky, dark eyes always seeming to have an intelligent expression, stared back as if to say, "But I didn't tell you when."
Jamka squatted near Alika. At 110 pounds, he was a huge dog, with black-and-brown fur six inches thick. His undercoat was naturally oily to prevent moisture from reaching his skin. His bushy tail curled over his back. His ears were small, like those of most other Arctic animals, offering less area to absorb the cold of forty-five degrees below zero. He had a broad chest and big bones. There was wolf blood in him. In the Inuit tradition, the village children trained their dogs for sledge work. Alika had trained Jamka.
When Alika was seven years old, he and Jamka had bonded in an emergency, and they had been almost inseparable ever since. One September day, when the ice was still thin on a lake two miles from Nunatak, Alika was fishing for char when the crust broke. Into the water he went. Jamka pulled him out by the parka hood and dragged him home. Alika well remembered looking up at Jamka's wet belly as he slid on his back along the snow. He was convinced that Jamka thought like a human, and he trusted the dog with his life.
He looked over at Jamka and said, "I hope your nose isn't drying up." The adult hunters trained the dogs to sniff the seal breathers. Papa Kussu had done that.
Jamka continued to stare at the hole.
Ringed seals usually surfaced to breathe in what the white man judged as every seven minutes, but it was possible for them to stay down as long as twenty.
There were hundreds of the cylinder-like holes dug from beneath the ice. Three-hour waits were nothing, because the hunter could never tell which holes were being used. Only dogs like Jamka had that talent, and even they were often wrong.
Alika rose and called to the other dogs that were half buried in the snow. It was past time to go home.
Jamka stood up, also looking at the quickly darkening, threatening sky. Very experienced, Jamka seemed to sense danger in guiding the team, as if he knew exactly where hidden crevasses were; where the thin ice was. He'd fought polar bears and been wounded by them. He was the best lead dog Kussu had ever owned.
Then suddenly, unexpectedly, the floe shook and a loud crack shattered the stillness. Alika watched in horror as the dark expanse of water between the ice floe and the shore began to widen. Three feet! Five feet! Seven feet! Alika's body stiffened with fear and helplessness. The same thing had happened to several villagers without kayaks to reach shore. Their floe had split off, and they were never seen again.
Alika didn't know how to swim, and even if his feet were to find bottom and he could wade across carrying Sulu, water would seep into his polar bear pants and sealskin boots and underpants. Even if they could reach land, they'd surely freeze onshore, turn into human icicles. He needed time to cut snow blocks, build a small house, and start a seal-oil fire to dry their clothes. Going into the water would be a fatal mistake. The cold would kill them.
As he watched the shoreline fall away, Alika guessed that an iceberg aimlessly sailing slowly south down the strait, a ghostly and deadly mountain of ice, had rammed the floe, tearing it away from the permafrost shore, the always frozen earth. Now they were trapped in the gloom on a ship of ice, surrounded by hundreds of smaller ice cakes. The distance from shore would surely widen. Maybe they'd lose sight of the white-encrusted land completely. Total afternoon darkness was also near. They might not even see the village, where they lived with Papa Kussu and Mama Maja, as they slowly passed it. Unless they were very close, shouting would do no good in the wind and night.
Sulu had awakened, his small face a ball of terror. Alika said, "Don't worry, Little One, the wind will blow us back to shore." But he knew that chance was indeed slim. The prevailing wind this day was from the west, opposite of what they needed to reach shore again. He spoke in Inuktitut, the native language.
Thinking mostly of the Little One, Papa's name for Sulu, Alika shook the fear out of his head and tight stomach. One member of their village, old Miak, had survived being trapped on a big drifting floe. His terrible passage had taken months before he was rescued hundreds of miles down the strait by hunters. Alika tried to remember what Miak had said: "Get rid of the dogs. You'll be lucky to feed yourself. Toss them overboard. They'll run for home and alert the village. Build yourself an iglu. Watch out for bears. Don't go outside unless you have a rifle..."
Shore at this point was still only fourteen or fifteen feet away from their floe. Alika quickly unharnessed all the dogs except Jamka and pushed them into the water. Nanuks, polar bears, were always hungry, and Jamka would be the best defense against them. He knew their strong odor.
The six dogs paddled ashore, and Alika watched as they climbed up onto the bank and shook the water from their tough coats. They moved out into the closing dusk as a pack. Ideally, they'd run straight to the village, unless they encountered a bear. They'd surely attack it, Alika knew, and all six could be killed. He hoped the inuas, the always watching and listening heavenly spirits, would direct the dogs away from any prowling nanuks.
Alika thought that if the dogs arrived safely, his papa and the other villagers would quickly figure out what might have happened. Only Alika could have unharnessed the dogs! He must be injured or, worst of all, adrift on a floe with no way to reach shore. Sulu has been missing all day and is undoubtedly with Alika. Poor Little One.
Alika put his arms around his brother and said, "Don't be afraid. Papa has put everything on the sledge that we'll need. Once the dogs reach home, Papa and the other men will launch the big boat and paddle out to find us. We'll build a small house. We'll stay here near the aglus and hunt after we build the house, all right?"
Sulu nodded. He was almost too frightened to speak but did manage to say, "We can't use the sledge. The dogs are gone."
"We can use parts of the sledge, and everything that's on it," Alika said. "You'll see."
"What happened, Alika?"
"An iceberg hit the floe and broke it from shore."
"Why did the berg hit us?"
"Bergs have no brains, Little One."
Like Alika's, Sulu's intense eyes were black; his hair, straight and black, too. His caribou-fur parka hood framed a reddish-brown face that was holding back tears.
Rather frail and sometimes sickly, Sulu was an apprentice to the old ex-hunter Etukak, and his soapstone carvings of birds, a most difficult subject, were already the talk of Nunatak. Etukak said young Sulu was very talented.
Everyone in the village knew that Sulu was different and remarked about it. Mama called him "the gentle one." And he had that strange love of birds. He'd never put an arrow through a dovekie or an owl or a raven. And in the summer hunts, if he found a bird with a broken wing, he'd try to fix it.
Alika had seen him turn away when a seal was killed; when a caribou or musk ox was brought down; even when one of the thousands of hares was trapped and killed by Mama.
Out of Sulu's hearing, his papa and mama had talked about him-Papa dismayed that he might...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Harcourt, INC., Orlando, 2004. Softcover. Book Condition: New. Uncorrected Proof. 224 pages. Softcover. New copy. Uncorrected proof. YOUNG ADULTS. The year is 1868, and fourteen-year old Alika and his younger brother, Sulu, are hunting for seals on an ice float attached to their island in the Arctic. Suddenly the ice starts to shake, and they hear a loud crack-the terrible sound of the floe breaking free from the land. This thrilling new adventure story is a moving testament to the bond between brothers-and to the strength of the human spirit. (Key Words: young adult, chapter books, adventure stories, fiction, middle grade, world history, icebergs, Inuit, Eskimos, Brothers, Arctic Ocean). book. Bookseller Inventory # 14992X1
Book Description Harcourt Children's Books, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0152050817
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