RACE TO THE POLAR SEA by Ken McGoogan

RACE TO THE POLAR SEA

The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Pertinent new insights into the life and Arctic treks of an important 19th-century American explorer.

Having stumbled upon the logbook and other effects of Elisha Kent Kane (1820–57), Canadian author McGoogan (Ancient Mariner, 2004, etc.) sets out to rehabilitate this previously neglected figure. Going in search of English adventurer Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1845 while looking for the Northwest Passage, Kane discovered instead the Great Glacier of Humboldt and the Kennedy Channel; he also recorded many valuable observations of polar geography, wildlife and Inuit culture. Scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, he determined to make a glorious reputation for himself and was undeterred by several severe bouts of rheumatic fever in his late teens. He studied medicine and took to the sea, serving on vessels to the Far East, Egypt and Africa. At the instigation of Franklin’s wife, lobbying tirelessly to generate a search expedition for her husband, Kane made two trips to the Arctic in search of Sir John and the legendary Open Polar Sea, which was supposed to flow across the pole. The first, as ship’s surgeon on the Advance in 1850, resulted in the discovery of the Beechey Island graves of three men from Franklin’s expedition. A monumental second voyage commanded by Kane lasted for two brutal years, 1853-5, as he and his increasingly mutinous crew tried to drive upward through Baffin Bay and Smith Sound. They reached farther north than any other explorers had and produced sketches of the fantastic landscape, but the scurvy-ridden and starving men survived a second winter only with the help of Inuit tribes. Returning as a hero, still courting the controversial spiritualist Maggie Fox, Kane managed to produce his rapturous Arctic Explorations before dying of a stroke at age 37.

A terrifically accessible account of this wide-eyed, extraordinarily intrepid adventurer’s thrilling and chilling exploits.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-58243-440-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008




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