Paddle to the Arctic

Paddle to the Arctic

The Incredible Story of A Kayak Quest Across the Roof of the World

Book - 1995
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Don Starkell decided to paddle a kayak from Hudson Bay 3,000 miles through the Northwest Passage. Paddle to the Arctic is Don's diary of his journey from Churchill, Manitoba, north and then west all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, close to Alaska. The voyage took him three Arctic summers. Each attempt almost cost him his life. The first year, aged fifty-seven and "very scared", Don paddled north through the thawing ice-fields. How he survived a spill in frigid waters miles from shore before fighting his way home is in itself an incredible story. On his return to Churchill he was greeted by a local with the words "I was hoping you wouldn't make it back". Why? "If guys like you are successful, it will encourage others to try, and the whole west shore of Hudson Bay will be piled deep with bodies". Undeterred, Don tried again the next year with two companions. Fred soon gave up, but Victoria gamely survived their jousts with polar bears, walrus, and other hazards all the way to Repulse Bay. (For most readers, one of the book's pleasures is learning the geography of the North as Don visits each community in turn.). The third year was the big test. Dragging their sleds across the peninsulas proved to be too tough, and snowmobiles had to be used to get to Spence Bay. Then it was straight across the frozen sea, hauling their kayaks on sleds. Although Victoria had to give up ("My God, he'll kill us both", she told a Winnipeg paper), Don kept on, not seeing another human being for weeks, and risking his life as he waded across the thawing ice ("Fell through the ice up to my neck at least ten times yesterday ..".). At Cambridge Bay he abandoned the sled and threaded his way through the breaking ice bykayak, out into open water. There he confronted storms, giant Arctic seas, and ("August 19 - snow!") the growing threat of freeze-up. The variety of Don's adventures will astonish every reader. "So far on my voyage", he writes,
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c1995.
ISBN: 9780771082481
0771082487
9780771082399
0771082398
Characteristics: 313 p., [24] p. :,ill., ports, map ;,24 cm.

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diesellibrarian Feb 17, 2016

This adventure tale reads like a travel diary: lots of sentence fragments and a spare prose. This approach creates a sense of immediacy that really moves the narrative along. There is no questioning Starkell's remarkable achievement; however, his seemingly incorrigible lack of self-awareness, his... Read More »


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diesellibrarian Feb 17, 2016

This adventure tale reads like a travel diary: lots of sentence fragments and a spare prose. This approach creates a sense of immediacy that really moves the narrative along. There is no questioning Starkell's remarkable achievement; however, his seemingly incorrigible lack of self-awareness, his belligerence toward his traveling companions, and his reckless risk-taking ultimately paint a portrait of a highly driven but unlikable individual who can mostly attribute his survival to sheer luck. Moreover, his hero-worship of the European explorers who perished seeking the elusive North West Passage and his grudging (but growing) respect for the Inuit who have lived and thrived in the Arctic for generations serve to highlight a distasteful and decidedly colonial perspective that shouldn't have been so comfortable for the author - even in 1990. Not sure I'll seek out his other work.

2
22950008583270
Apr 10, 2014

I echo Deborah Blow's comments regarding kayaking safety. As an experienced kayaker, I find Don Starkell's actions reckless and a poor example of leadership. Furthermore, the "diary" type writing of this book made it very boring and uninteresting to read. I won't be reading his previous book.

d
Deborah Blow
Jul 23, 2012

After Reading "Kabloona & the Yellow Kayak" , a woman's voyage through the North West Passage, I have a fairly low opinion of Don Starkell. And as I kayaker I certianly wouldn't look to him as a safe example to follow either, as he went unprepared and often ignored local advise regarding conditions & best routes. I do though highly recommend "Kabloona & the Yellow Kayak"

j
jesselapointe
Jul 23, 2012

I havn't read his first book Paddle to the Amazon, but I will in the future thanks to this amazing book. I thought that the book, adventure journal, held together rather good and maintained the pace aswell as the anxiety to a degree that was sufficient to keep me engaged and yet appreciate the danger and his persistence/maddness for taking on such a collosall endeavour. In my opinion Starkell has more persistence and motivation than is wise because he is lucky to be alive (he is a mess of nubs and stubs and limps). I expected him to succumb repeatedly in his account. Who goes to the arctic and doesn't anticipate pressure craks in the sea ice when you come from Manitoba a place half underwater or on its edge or us a tarp for a tent, no spare tent polls or even foot ware other than tennis shoes or rubber boots?!! Good suspense for sure!!

v
vanravenstein
Aug 22, 2010

I didn't enjoy it as much as Paddle to the Amazon, but I was still intrigued throughout. I couldn't believe how tough Starkle was to go through all of this!

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