Four Against the Arctic
Four Against the Arctic is available from Amazon and is quite enlightening. You learn about an ivy league professor’s search for the story of four Russian sailors. These four men survived six years in the Arctic in 1743 after being marooned with only two days’ supplies. That they survived for more than a week was amazing in itself.
These men’s ship was presumably destroyed by ice, stranding them on an inhospitable piece of land deep in the Arctic. Virtually anyone should have died. Yet they not only survived the first winter but went on for six more. After that long, they were actually living rather than surviving. It was quite mind-blowing.
The actual story of the Pomori (Russian) sailors seems to have been somewhat lost to history. The only person who seemed to recover the history was Le Roy, an academic from the mid-18th century. From David Robert’s writing, Le Roy actually captured few details of the actual saga of these lost men.
Robert’s found the original reference in the book In the Land of White Death. The reference is what began his eighteen-month saga to reach Svalbard and search for remnants of the lost sailors’ hut.
This book was, somewhat, like reading an archeologist chasing through history in the Harvard library, trying to piece things together. Roberts made fun of Le Roy’s academic tone constantly. Yet, Robert’s crazy vocabulary and ivory tower writing style wasn’t been much better.
I listened to the book rather than reading it. This, I’m guessing, made slogging through the author’s bombastic vocabulary liveable. My vocabulary is pretty good but I learned quite a few words I have never heard. The nice thing about listening to the book is it was easy to tune out the rambling parts on philosophy and such.
Would I recommend this book? I have mixed feelings. I say yes because it’s such a fascinating experience to see what it takes to find out about a story that has little remaining of it. I’d recommend listening to the book or purchasing it used. It makes me want to go to Svalbard.
I’ve been to the Arctic once in Greenland an enjoyed it. I wonder what other crazy tales are out there?
Click here for a link to the overview of the story at Pressreader.com.
The funniest Amazon review is below. It reflected my thoughts exactly.
Thomas G. McCloud
December 20, 2003
I kept reading, and reading, in anticipation of learning the story of 4 Russian sailors shipwrecked on an arctic island for 6 years, because that’s why I bought the book. It wasn’t until near the end that I realized that this book was really about the author and his 3 cronies hanging out in a cabin on an arctic island for two weeks, drinking fine French wine. From this book I also learned that the author reads French, is a Harvard grad, has a very large vocabulary, and a pathology regarding polar bears. None of this sheds light on the topic given in the title, thus a disappointment.