Books  Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage

By: Glyn Williams

464 pages, 16 pp colour illustrations

Penguin Books

Paperback | Feb 2011 | #190305 | ISBN-13: 9780141037158
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £10.99 $14/€12 approx

About this book

For centuries British navigators dreamt of finding the Northwest Passage - the route over the top of North America that would open up the fabulous wealth of Asia to British merchants. We know now that, while several such passages exist, during the period of the search by sailing vessels they were choked by impassable ice. But this knowledge was slowly won, as expedition after expedition, under the most terrible conditions, slowly filled in the sailors' patchy and sometimes fatally misleading charts. "Arctic Labyrinth" tells this extraordinary story with great skill and brilliance.

From the tiny, woefully equipped ships of the first Tudor expeditions, to the icebreakers and nuclear submarines of the modern era, Glyn Williams describes how every form of ingenuity has been used to break through or try to get round the nightmarish ice barriers set in a maze of sterile islands. The heroism, folly and horror of these voyages seem almost unbelievable, with entire ships crushed, mass starvation, epics of endurance - and all in pursuit of a goal that ultimately proved futile. Williams' book is both an important work of exploration and naval history, and a remarkable study in human delusion and fortitude.

Glyn Williams has skilfully woven a clear narrative out of a tangled tale, with just the right amount of historical context ... [he] has an easy familiarity with his sources. He knows what to put in and, just as important, what to leave out. This is a balanced book, and one of the best primers on the subject -- Roland Huntford Literary Review

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Glyn Williams is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of London and former president of the Hakluyt Society. He is author of a group of remarkable and original accounts of major naval voyages, including Anson's voyage around the world (The Prize of All the Oceans) and Arctic exploration in the eighteenth century (Voyages of Delusion).

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