The elusive dream of locating the Northwest Passage—an ocean route over the top of North America that promised a shortcut to the fabulous wealth of Asia—obsessed explorers for centuries. While global warming has brought several such routes into existence, until recently these channels were hopelessly choked by impassible ice. Voyagers faced unimaginable horrors—entire ships crushed, mass starvation, disabling frostbite, even cannibalism—in pursuit of a futile goal. In Arctic Labyrinth, Glyn Williams charts the entire sweep of this extraordinary history, from the tiny, woefully equipped vessels of the first Tudor expeditions to the twentieth-century ventures that finally opened the Passage. Williams’s thrilling narrative delves into private letters and journals to expose the gritty reality behind the often self-serving accounts of those in charge. An important work of maritime history and exploration—and as exciting a tale of heroism and fortitude as readers will find—Arctic Labyrinth is also a remarkable study in human delusion.
Glyn Williams is Emeritus Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of many books including The Death of Captain Cook, Voyages of Delusion, and The Prize of all the Oceans.
“Arctic Labyrinth may well be the definitive work in the whole course of Arctic discovery and the particular chimera that killed so many men--the Northwest Passage.”—Robert C. Ritchie, author of Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates
Praise for Glyn Williams's The Prize of All the Oceans
“Remarkable … never was there a tale which joined such horror and pity, disaster and triumph, such fortitude in adversity. Glyn Williams's narrative brings out the drama of the story … an admirable retelling of a tragic and heroic tale.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“A quite remarkably erudite and deeply informed book.”—Daily Telegraph
Praise for Glyn Williams's Voyages of Delusion
“The fruits of Williams' research over the past four decades are seen in the new material he presents [and] in the richness of detail and nuances of character that be brings out.”—New York Times Book Review
“Readers, of course, can comfortably sail off into reverie without facing any of these perils.”—Booklist
Honorable Mention in the History category, 2010 National Outdoor Book Awards
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