Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
Scribner, 9781982113346, 320pp.
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (1/12/2021)
The human story has always been one of perseverance—often against remarkable odds. The most astonishing survival tale of all might be that of 16th-century Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew of sixteen, who ventured farther north than any Europeans before and, on their third polar exploration, lost their ship off the frozen coast of Nova Zembla to unforgiving ice. The men would spend the next year fighting off ravenous polar bears, gnawing hunger, and endless winter.
In Icebound, Andrea Pitzer masterfully combines a gripping tale of survival with a sweeping history of the great Age of Exploration—a time of hope, adventure, and seemingly unlimited geographic frontiers. At the story’s center is William Barents, one of the 16th century’s greatest navigators whose larger-than-life ambitions and obsessive quest to chart a path through the deepest, most remote regions of the Arctic ended in both tragedy and glory. Journalist Pitzer did extensive research, learning how to use four-hundred-year-old navigation equipment, setting out on three Arctic expeditions to retrace Barents’s steps, and visiting replicas of Barents’s ship and cabin.
“A visceral, thrilling account full of tantalizing surprises” (Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal ), Pitzer’s reenactment of Barents’s ill-fated journey shows us how the human body can function at twenty degrees below, the history of mutiny, the art of celestial navigation, and the intricacies of building shelters. But above all, it gives us a first-hand glimpse into the true nature of human courage.
About the Author
Praise For Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World…
—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of In the Kingdom of Ice
“Who knew that William Barents’s 16th-century journeys so strongly influenced the great 19th-century arctic expeditions? Andrea Pitzer’s visceral, thrilling account is full of such tantalizing surprises, a delight on every level.”
—Andrea Barrett, National Book Award-winning author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal
“Buried in snow, besieged by ice, and hunted by ravenous polar bears, explorer William Barents and his Dutch shipmates, seeking a northern trade route to the Far East, found themselves trapped in an epic battle for survival in the unknown, ice-locked Arctic. Andrea Pitzer’s worthy and superb account keeps us enthralled to the last chilling word.”
—Dean King, nationally bestselling author of Skeletons on the Zahara and The Feud
“The bone-chilling tale of a legendary journey in which survival depended on leadership, teamwork, and superhuman endurance—as well as the ability to outpace and out-battle icebergs and polar bears….A masterwork of narrative nonfiction.”
—Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of Frozen in Time and Fall and Rise
“Gives readers a new understanding of the phrase uncharted territory…. Methodically researched and elegantly told.”
—Beth Macy, New York Times bestselling author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America
"An enchantment. Pitzer expertly draws the reader into landscapes so unfamiliar and unsettling that they may as well be stolen from science fiction….[Features] ordeals that—to today’s readers—can seem nearly unimaginable.”
—Steve Silberman, author, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
“Page after page, Pitzer puts you inside one of the greatest adventures you’ll ever encounter. Beyond thrilling. Beyond enthralling. I found this a tale so involving that I simply couldn’t put it down.”
—Martin W. Sandler, author of the National Book Award finalist 1919 and The Impossible Rescue
"Stunning…shines with the glitter of sun reflecting off polar ice, auroral light shimmering in the night sky, and—mostly—the sheer, stubborn power of the undaunted human spirit."
—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
"Fascinating, bizarre, and very human…A riveting account of lives drawn into a world that seems at once dream and nightmare."
—Blair Braverman, author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North
“An epic tale of exploration, daring, and tragedy told by a fine historian—and a wonderful writer.”
—Peter Frankopan, internationally bestselling author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
“In Icebound Andrea Pitzer has accomplished something unique—she presents the daily lives of the early Dutch Arctic explorers with such precision and clarity that the reader becomes as immersed in the rawness of their experiences as one could ever imagine. Through unflinching detail, she describes the struggle for survival faced by three separate expeditions seeking a northeast passage from Europe to China (one of those voyages culminating in being marooned for months in the frozen north). Without sentimentality, she describes the perseverance and selfless sacrifice of the men involved, which allows a glimpse into the true nature of human courage. This is a book you will not want to put down, except to catch your breath.” —William E. Glassley, author of A Wilder Time: Notes From a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice
“Andrea Pitzer accomplishes for William Barents what the explorer could not do for himself: rescue his amazing life from the grip of the Arctic and centuries of hagiography. The Barents who appears in Pitzer’s spyglass seems impressively close to the actual man: intensely bold, highly skilled, and catastrophically wrong.” —P.J. Capelotti, author of The Greatest Show in the Arctic