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Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the Worldby David Roberts
Synopses & Reviews
When David Roberts came across a reference to four Russian sailors who had survived for six years on a barren Arctic island, he was incredulous. An expert on the literature of adventure, Roberts had never heard the story and doubted its veracity. His quest to find the true story turned into a near-obsession that culminated with his own journey to the same desolate island. In Four Against the Arctic Roberts shares the remarkable story that he discovered, perhaps the most amazing survival tale ever recorded.
In 1743 a Russian ship bound for Arctic walrus-hunting grounds was blown off course and trapped in ice off the coast of Svalbard (Spitzbergen). Four sailors went ashore with only two days' supplies to look for an abandoned hut they knew about on the island. They found it and returned to tell their shipmates the good news, only to find that their ship had vanished, apparently crushed and sunk by the ice.
The men survived more than six years until another ship blown off course rescued them. During that time they made a bow and arrows from driftwood (Svalbard has no trees) and killed nine polar bears in self-defense. They survived largely on reindeer meat, killing 250 of the animals during their ordeal.
Fascinated as he was by this remarkable story, Roberts wondered how it had dwindled into obscurity. For two years he researched the tale in libraries and archives in the United States, France, and Russia. In Russia he traveled to the sailors' hometown, where he met the last survivors of their families, who knew the story from an oral tradition passed down for more than 250 years. Finally, with three companions he organized an expedition to the barren island of Edgeøya in southeast Svalbard, where he spent three weeks looking for remnants of the sailors' lost hut and walking the shores while pondering the men's astonishing survival.
Four Against the Arctic is a riveting book about man versus nature and a delightfully engaging journey deep into an obsession with historical rediscovery. But it is more even than that: It is a meditation on the genius of survival against impossible odds that makes a story so inspirational that it still fires the imagination centuries later.
In 1743, four stranded Russian sailors survived the next six years in the Arctic with no provisions. Making a bow and arrows from driftwood--since there are no trees there--they survived on reindeer meat until another ship blown off course rescued them.
While reading Valerian Albanov's In the Land of White Death, David Roberts came across the mention of an old legend of four shipwrecked Russian sailors who had managed to survive six years stranded on a barren island in the high Arctic. Incredulous, Roberts — an expert on exploration literature who had never heard of this account — was determined to learn the truth behind this extraordinary story. Little did he know that his search would ultimately bring him closer to the experiences of these four survivors than he had imagined.
In 1743 four survivors of a Russian shipwreck in the Arctic Ocean were trapped on a tiny island with only twenty pounds of flour for food. With ingenuity and courage they endured six years of nearly unimaginable hardship, with only driftwood to fuel their life-saving fires, and the constant threat of attack from polar bears (they would kill ten with homemade lances). Roberts's quest to document their story would take him across two continents and culminate in his own expedition to the remote and desolate shores where these mysterious sailors had been marooned. Riveting and haunting, Four Against the Arctic chronicles an incredible true story.
About the Author
David Roberts is the author of fifteen previous books on topics ranging from mountain climbing to adventure to Native Americans and the American West. He has written for numerous publications, including National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and others. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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