Arctic Passages

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Arctic historian and archaeologist John Bockstoce is the author of a number of books which deal with the Arctic region and the hearty people who inhabit it, including ESKIMOS OF NORTHWEST ALASKA IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (1977) and WHALES, ICE AND MEN (1986). His passionate interest in the Northwest Passage can be traced to his first journey to an island in the Bering Strait during the summer of 1969. He traveled in an umiak, a wood-framed Eskimo boat covered by a walrus hide.

ARCTIC PASSAGES details Bockstoce’s quest to traverse the Northwest Passage from west to east. The traveling season of the area is very short. Starting in the summer of 1972, Bockstoce and six companions headed east from Nome, Alaska, in a thirty-two-foot-long umiak. Each summer after that the author came back to progress further on his quest. It was not until the summer of 1988 that Bockstoce and his crew reached the eastern edge of the Northwest Passage. Bockstoce also takes the time to relate what life is like for the native inhabitants of the region and how they must struggle to survive under difficult conditions. The environment dictates what can and cannot be attempted in the Arctic.

There are a number of photographs and maps included so that the reader gets a better idea of what this perilous journey was like. Bockstoce balances the precariousness of the quest with a healthy sense of humor. ARCTIC PASSAGES is a stimulating adventure story and much more. It also serves as a wonderful introduction to an isolated and little-known region. Bockstoce is to be congratulated for achieving his goal—a goal that he probably would never have reached if it had not been for the great respect he had for the Arctic and its peoples.