Ring of Ice (Peter Stark) pdf, epub, doc

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From the time of the ancient Greeks until the 19th century, European explorers imagined that beyond the ring of ice that encircled the Arctic lay a warm, calm sea that would take them to the Orient. Instead of this easy Northwest Passage, notes Peter Stark, those explorers found what the Inuit and Eskimo inhabitants of the region knew they would: "ice, ice, and more ice."

In this well-chosen anthology, Stark offers a documentary history of changing views of the Arctic over the last two and a half centuries. His collection begins with the words of Georg Wilhelm Steller (for whom many Arctic animal species are named), who accompanied the star-crossed Danish explorer Vitus Bering across the far northern Pacific. The memoirs of other explorers follow, intermingled with prose and poetry from the indigenous peoples of the region. Most of those explorers, like the unfortunate American surveyor Adolphus Greely and the Italian aviator Umberto Nobile, recount wrong decisions taken in the face of horrendous circumstances, whether howling gales or the madness of companions. Few of their stories end happily, save that their narrators usually survived. The closing pages of Stark's anthology are given over to a new kind of explorer, the literary naturalist, whose greatest exemplar is Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams).

Students of the history of exploration and the peoples of the Arctic will find Stark's book to be an engaging survey. —Gregory McNamee

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