~Read Book ⚖ Arctic Labyrinth ⚔ 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
The history of European penetration into the Pacific Ocean has long been Professor Glyn Williams special interest He has written extensively, based on his historical research, about European exploration, trade and sometimes conflict in that ocean A fabled Strait of Anian across North America had been rumoured since the sixteenth century In Voyages of Delusion he has written a detailed and fascinating account of two centuries of exploration attempting to rediscover and verify a navigable passage from the North Atlantic into the Pacific a route that held out the promise of easier access to the profitable European trade with China and the Orient Early attempts to find a short route to the Pacific were largely British, with hopes that some navigable waterway would be found out of or near Hudson Bay, where the somewhat secretive Hudson s Bay Company had trading posts When these attempts failed, the search shifted to the Pacific coast of North America, where expeditions under Captain James Cook, La P rouse and several Spanish explorers tried to locate the trans continental waterways supposed to have been discovered earlier by Juan de Fuca, Bartholomew de Fonte and Maldonado Armchair geographers and cartographers in Europe had meanwhile constructed vast maps of North America, in which imaginary inland seas and waterways apparently linked the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in total ignorance of the barrier of the Rocky Mountains and huge distances These abortive and often misreported voyages of exploration are described and put into context in this well written account by Glyn Williams By the late eighteenth century Vancouver, Malaspina and other Spanish explorers had carried out very careful surveys of the Pacific coast, under difficult conditions The commercial traders who came in search of the valuable sea otter pelts also contributed their findings These finally showed that all the earlier claims of navigable passages were delusions, based on failure to appreciate the extent of the Inside Passage, between the mainland and the extensive archipelago of islands off the fractured Pacific coast.This book covers the explorations up to the end of the eighteenth century, and does not deal with the later attempts by others, including the tragic voyages of Sir John Franklin in the nineteenth century The book is a compelling read, but not one to read quickly it is very detailed and at times one struggles a bit with the innumerable characters For example, Puget, after whom Seattle s waterway is named, is casually referred to as Lieutenant Peter Puget without mentioning which of Captain George Vancouver s two ships he served in The book has many invaluable maps and charts though the reproduction of some eighteenth century maps in the paperback edition is a bit disappointing The index is excellent and there are over 20 pages of scholarly endnotes as well as summaries of the somewhat incredible accounts of late sixteenth century discoveries.It was not until 1914 that the Panama Canal provided a navigable Strait of Anian connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through America Now rising ocean temperatures and retreat of polar ice caused by progressive climate change offers the possibility of a navigable North West Passage across the north of America. The fabled Northwest Passage that supposedly provided a sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans around the top of North America intrigued Europeans for centuries The search for a navigable route around North America was spurred by the dream of riches to be found in the unknown lands to the west and in the Orient as well as to avoid the tortuously long and hazardous route around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America or the even longer route via the Cape of Good Hope The Spanish even had a name for it, Anian, but their repeated attempts to find it all failed The French also had no success This book provides an overview of the many failed attempts, mostly British, from James Knight of the Hudson Bay Company to Royal Navy Captains James Cook and George Vancouver, and their Spanish and French contemporaries.The voyage of Christopher Middleton in 1741 2 demonstrated how harsh the conditions were in Hudson Bay during winter, especially as the men were ill prepared, and the fresh food and clothing were insufficient Many succumbed to frostbite or scurvy, for which there was no known cure at the time When Middleton returned to England, he was accused of lying about his findings by his former sponsor, which made it difficult for him to gain further positions But his findings were partly vindicated in a further voyage by William Moor and Francis Smith in 1746 7, which descended into enmity And Middleton s discoveries were further verified 80 years later.Before the 18th century, three Spanish captains claimed to have found the Strait of Anian or the Rio Los Reyes, and one of them claimed to have sailed through it to Hudson Bay These accounts coloured the thinking and cartography throughout the 18th century The French produced fantastic maps with a supposed sea within the western half of North America and the navigable channel suggested by the Spanish accounts These drove the thinking of some of the English champions of the Northwest Passage The Spanish accounts eventually proved to be false.Cook s third voyage of discovery was brought about through a renewed interest in Britain to find the Northwest Passage from the Pacific as supposedly the Spanish had done It appears that a large reward was put up to persuade Cook to take up this mission Cook and his crew used Russian maps to guide them, but these proved to be utterly worthless to the exasperated master navigator He was also led to believe that the polar sea would largely be ice free so that the crew was hugely disappointed to be confronted by an impenetrable ice barrier north of Bering Strait Despite the disappointment and setbacks, Cook determined the shape of the Northwest coast of America that had eluded all previous attempts.La Perouse followed Cook and attempted to find a way through, but the weather and time defeated him This and other voyages to the Northwest coast helped to fill in some of the gaps that Cook had missed because he had assumed that some of the strings of coastal islands were the mainland The tremendous number of islands along this coast provided a veritable maze that, combined with wishful thinking, led many people to believe that the fabled Spanish passage to Hudson Bay existed.George Vancouver, who had twice sailed with Cook, finally put all the mythical passages beyond doubt by meticulously surveying the North West coast from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north of Kodiak Island, Alaska.The illusory stories of the voyages of Juan de Fuca, Bartholomew de Fonte, and Lorenzo Ferrer Maldonado spurred European geographers and explorers into the search for a navigable passage through North America It took than a hundred years to show that no such passage existed despite the encouragement from land based sponsors This account of the exploration during the 18th century shows that the promise of riches, no matter how illusory, will drive men to follow mere suggestions It took great navigators to finally dash those dreams but at the same time, they filled in the blanks of the North West coast of North America Their achievements have to be admired and celebrated, not for their failure to find the impossible, but for their determination to disprove fantastic theories.In my opinion, this is a well researched book that demonstrates the fallibility of human nature when faced with the immense opportunities suggested by others It took the dedicated labours of meticulous men, such as Cook, Vancouver, La Perouse, and Malaspina, to reveal the truth I give this book 4 stars out of 5. Williams does wonderful historical work on the pursuit of the Northwest Passage Though I used this text as a supplement to research for an interpretation of James Sterling s An Epistle to the Hon Arthur Dobbs, Williams was such a wonderful writer that I read the entire book anyway Voyages of Delusion is a wonderful book for the history enthusiast or anyone looking to explore the mysterious frontier of the American colonies. written by a scientist or so it seemed A little too dry for my adventurous mind. An excellent and thorough overview of the major mostly British Arctic explorations, beginning in the late 16th century with Martin Frobisher and ending with the single year navigation of one of the passages by the Norwegian born Canadian, Henry Larsen Standout chapters cover Sir John Franklin s harrowing 1819 22 overland expedition, Sir W.E Parry s successful 1821 overwintering at Melville Island, John and James Clark Ross s 1829 1833 ordeal in Prince Regent Inlet, and the dysfunctional Franklin searches of Belcher and Collinson Most of the second half of the book deals, in one way or another, with the Franklin Expedition its preparation and departure, the Admiralty response to its disappearance, the major search efforts, and the eventual discoveries of McClintock and, to a lesser extent, Hall and Schwatka Highly recommended, especially for readers new to the history of Arctic exploration and the mystery of the Franklin Expedition. Good A nice history of Arctic exploration Didn t bring up De Long at all, which actually I suppose was okay because I wasn t in the mood to cry, anyway Actually I thought it was weird, since it did mention Allen Young, and the HMS Pandora, and James Gordon Bennettbut it glossed right over the USS Jeannette.. I love books about cold places, and try to read one in the summer This summer s is Arctic Labyrinth.I was already somewhat familiar with many of the attempts at finding the Northwest Passage described in this book Williams doesn t skimp on detailing the trials and deprivations of early attempts, but his focus is on how the methodology of attempts changed over time, and using documentary evidence to do so He especially excels at pointing out the discrepancies amongst official accounts, published narratives, and private journals and correspondence concerning various journeys.I have to be really interested in a topic to consult the research notes at the back of books I m lazy and prefer footnotes , but Williams section on Sources and Further Reading is a wonderful document Written in paragraph form, he suggests reference books, points the reader to the best biographies of various explorers, and lists manuscripts and archives he consulted I ts much , well, dynamic than a dry list of sources and it shows the level of scholarship and work that went into producing this book My only complaint about this book is that, while there were a few maps, most of the time I found myself consulting the map on page 175, a general map of the Canadian Arctic A few place names are listed, but by no means all of the ones named in the various attempts described in the book And there are no tracks outlining all the various routes taken A map accompanying each chapter with marked routes would have made for easier reading On the upside, the book reminded me of John Collier s painting The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson , which I saw many years ago The story is quite haunting.There s nothing like a book featuring frostbite, scurvy and temperatures of 101 below zero to stop one from complaining about summers in Texas. Non Fiction A history of the search for the Northwest Passage from the 1500s through to the 1940s, mostly through the eyes of the British The Russians, Spanish, and French get a few mentions, but always framed as competition After the passage lost favor with the British in the late 1800s it took them nearly four hundred years to realize that sailing through the dangerous ice choked waters of the arctic wasn t ever going to be practical , the field opens up to include Swedish, Norwegian, and Canadian attempts.Comprehensive in its British scope, but written in dry, unengaging prose, this was a slog for me to get through Williams has moments of brilliantly cutting British humor, but the majority of the book is taken up by unembellished dates and facts, especially the earlier chapters where little is known about the voyages or the captains motivations I once found myself wailing, But why would Thomas James try to scuttle his ship two separate times Only to get no answer That s just the way it goes Williams doesn t spend much time speculating, and when he does it s all clearly identified as supposition.Williams does a fair job introducing the many, many people involved with the search for the Northwest Passage, as well as reintroducing them when they pop up again later, as many of them do It seems once you became an Arctic, it was for life, and those that survived their expeditions became advisers to the Admiralty and the next generation of explorers.The book has several maps, but needed , with detail Often a place would be mentioned that didn t appear on any of the maps in the book The twenty eight color plates are referenced in the text though once incorrectly and once not at all , and I was amazed at some of the sketches and paintings made by the officers and crew aboard these expeditions And I don t know if this is a British thing or an academic style thing or what, but Williams doesn t put HMS in front of naval ships, which is confusing because sometimes that s the only way to tell if an expedition was sent by the Royal Navy or privately funded.Three stars A history mostly free of authorial opinion and theorizing, ploddingly laid out in chronological order It doesn t have much personality, but it has all the names, dates, and numbers you could need It also has an index and thorough end notes, though no separate bibliography. Firstly, I d recommend anyone with a general interest in this subject to skip this book and go straight to the same author s later Arctic Labyrinth which covers much the same ground but in the broader context of the whole search for the North west passage This book covers the search in the 18th century, and while it has its fair share of good stories, it feels like the beginning and end is missing.What WIlliams is very good at is the often unexamined relationship between speculative cartography and exploration WHich as he shows is not simply a conflict between imagination and experience He s also good on the problem the stay at homes had sifting the stories Christopher Middleton, for example suffered a horrendous winter in Hudson s Bay only to return and be told by his patron Arthur Dobbs he had exaggerated How to tell the difference between the unimaginable reality of twelve feet of snow and ships frozen hard in the ice the blatantly fictive journey s like Swift s and the fictive, but believable, whose claims that had ships searching for non existent straights There were those who simply didn t believe sea water could freeze and were prepared to tell Sailors like Cook who had seen it that they were mistaken As WIlliams outlines, the flip side of rationalism an inability to believe the apparently irrational.The book reproduces the maps and details their genesis with as much care as it details the voyages It feels half way between a narrative history and a reference book Not light reading by any means.