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Smashing through the Arctic Ocean with the crew of a Russian icebreaker, herding reindeer across the tundra with Lapps and shadowing the Trans-Alaskan pipeline with truckers, Sara Wheeler discovers a compex and ambiguous land belonging both to ancient myth and modern controvery. The Magnetic North is a spicy confection of history, science and reflection in which Wheeler meditates on the role of the Arctic: fragmented lands which fed imaginations long before the scientists and oilmen showed up (not to mention desperado explorers who ate their own shoes). The Magnetic North tells of all this, plus gulag ghosts, old and new Russia, colliding cultures and bioaccumulated toxins in polar bears.