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'A superb book … Few can duplicate Mr Scott's ability to relate a provocative adventure.' The New York Times Book Review
'A polished, integrated work and a valuable portrait.' Sunday Telegraph
'Awed by the landscape and people he encountered, Scott does full justice to both in this engaging travel adventure.' Publishers Weekly
For years Alastair Scott had dreamed of driving a dog team through the snows of the north, but he had no practical experience when he arrived in Alaska determined to do so. He bought or borrowed his team, spent five months getting to know his dogs and learning the techniques on which his life would depend, and then drove 800 miles in mid-winter along the line of the Arctic Circle. He followed the frozen Yukon river and then travelled out over sea ice to Nome. This book is the story of that feat of self-reliance and endurance; and it has become a classic.
It is at the same time a portrait of the land - beautiful, rich, empty, sometimes murderous - and of the people who choose to make their lives there. Alaskans are the custodians of the spirit of adventure. They have to be, whether they belong among the dispossessed Aboriginals whose land is now the Fourth World, or whether they are pioneers, for whom Alaska is a state of mind, a bastion of enterprise and individuality.
In the course of the book the author's tracks become interwoven with those of vivid characters, past and present: beaver-trappers, F15 pilots, the melancholy Vitus Bering who perished on a fox-infested island; Archdeacon Hudson Stuck standing behind a sacramental cloth as he mushed across his parish - 300,000 square miles of forest and tundra; Ed Jesson cycling the roadless expanse between Dawson City and Nome in the winter of 1900; serum runners on a mercy dash; migrating tribes; the remotest Little Diomeders; legendary Iditarod champions Susan Butcher and Rick Swenson battling for the lead in 'the last great race' which overtakes the author on his trail.
And there are the dogs who become like a family for Alastair as together they cross the icy wilderness.
The author, a Scotsman, arrived in Manley Hot Springs, west of Fairbanks, just before Halloween in 1987, thirsty for adventure. He had long dreamed of driving a dog team across Alaska and knew the history and literature of Arctic travel. Now, with the use of a cabin and an offer of professional advice on mushing, he had to acquire a dog team, learn how to handle and care for the animals, then travel more than 800 miles--all in one season. After acclimatizing to the weather, eight dogs and Alaskans, he started out the following March and arrived in Nome 32 days later. His trail crossed and occasionally joined that of the Iditarod Race, the famous annual dogsledding event. Awed by the landscape and people he encountered, Scott does full justice to both in this engaging travel adventure. Photos.