Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review : Shipwrecked On Top Of The World, Four Against The Arctic - David Roberts***



From the blurb on the back of this book this sounds like a fabulous and riveting tale of survival against the odds. Four sailors from the North of Russia were stranded on Spitsbergen in May 1743, nobody knew they were there after they vessel sank and it was over six years when another vessel came in sight of the remote island. Three of the men had survived on an island which existed in a permanent state of winter, on which almost nothing but scrub grass grew, and on which roamed a large concentration of polar bears.

This sounds like an awesome tale, but the book actually details Roberts diligent literary research into the tale from first discovering it, to eventually setting up an expedition to re-discover the site of the hut that the men survived for so long in. I found much of the book to be more interesting than riveting, there are only so many tales of Russian bureaucratic ineptitude that make for a good story.

The expedition section which comes late in the book does make for good reading, especially when an inquisitive polar bear sticks its head through the hut's window, but overall I found the book far less 'riveting and inspirational' than the blurb would have you believe.

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