Under Polaris: An Arctic Quest

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9780295977614: Under Polaris: An Arctic Quest

Based on Washburn's journal of the first three years of her journeys in the Arctic beginning in 1938, including photographs by her and her husband. They traveled the coastal areas of Victoria and King William Islands by boat and dog sled. She made a concerted effort to learn the survival skills of the Inuit women, and describes the process of making caribou skin clothing for herself and her husband. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A modest memoir of scientific exploration in the Canadian Arctic. In 1938 first-time author Washburn accompanied her husband, Lincoln, to the far north when he went to pursue doctoral fieldwork on the geology and glaciology of the vast region; for the next several years the two traveled across much of the ice pack, studying both the landscape and its people and animals. Washburns memoir is drawn from journals she kept at the time, and theyre full of exclamation marks, mundane details, and the unexplained stuff of passing observation. We found the early Canadian bush pilots to be outstanding men individually and as a group, she writes, without elaborating, leaving the reader to imagine why the bush pilots should have merited such commendation. As the narrative progresses, Washburns account takes on a more lively air, but its still not much of a literary production. Even so, readers may enjoy her accounts of the hardships of life in the permafrost. For instance, getting into the Arctic heartland above the Mackenzie River delta, she writes, took much doing, including bargaining for passage with sometimes surly, often lonely trawler captains; becoming accustomed to the ways of her Inuit and Eskimo neighbors (and especially their penchant for practical joking) presented other difficultiesas did negotiating a path among contending missionaries and government workers charged with improving the spiritual and material life of the native peoples. Of greater value than Washburns words, pleasant enough though they are, are the more than 100 photographs taken by the author and her husband, which accompany the text; they show innumerable details of life in the still-frontier Canadian far north, and they are unfailingly interesting. For those photographs alone, diehard fans of Arctic-exploration narratives will find this a valuable addition to their collections. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review:

"A wonderful, concise account of a woman learning to cope with the difficulties of Arctic life at the precise moment when the old Arctic of dog teams and isolation was about to change forever because of the outbreak of World War II." John Bockstoce, author of Whales, Ice, and Men: The History of Whaling in the Western Arctic. "Washburn's descriptions are especially insightful because she was an eager participant in all of the activities of Inuit daily life, and determined to learn how to do the many tasks relegated to women." Dorothy Jean Ray, author of The Legacy of Arctic Art.

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