Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

Scribner. Jan. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982113346. $29. HIST
William Barents (c. 1550–1597) was a Dutch navigator and cartographer who sailed three times into the Arctic searching for a shorter trade route to China. His first two voyages in 1594 and 1595 were unsuccessful because of ice and mutiny. Barents’s third voyage, in 1596, was tasked with sailing over the North Pole to trade with China. He discovered Spitsbergen, Bear Island, and the nesting site of barnacle geese, but became icebound on the northeastern coast of Nova Zembla. Barents and the surviving crew were threatened by polar bears, scurvy, ice, and Arctic weather for over ten months. The crew left Ice Harbor on June 13, 1597, and began rowing and sailing home. Sadly, Barents died seven days later, though the sailors were rescued seven weeks after that. Journalist Pitzer uses the writings of Dutch merchant Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, among others, to create a rich retelling of the life of Barents, who broadened scientific knowledge with observations that he and his crew made of Arctic flora, fauna, weather, and atmospheric events. The Dutch thoroughly embraced his legacy and renamed the Murmans Sea in his honor in 1853.
VERDICT An engaging read for fans of polar and Arctic history.
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