Books have a tendancy to sometimes sit on my shelf for a long time. A very long time. Jonathan Waterman’s Artic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture, I would guess, has been there for about a decade. I grabbed it off the freebie shelf at work one day since it looked interesting, but never got around to reading it. That is, I never got to it until now.
Arctic Crossing is Jonathan Waterman’s account of his trip across the Northwest Passage – from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic – by his own power. As in he never used a motor to complete his trip, it was all done by kayak, hiking, or in some other natural manner. And that is something that is an amazingly huge endeavor when you think about everyone who died attempting to find a route to the Far East during the Golden Age of Exploration.
I really enjoyed Arctic Crossing. Jonathan Waterman’s writing is very conversational and thus easy to read. He doesn’t talk over the reader’s head, but instead more like you’re at the bar with him having a couple of pints. And considering what he did – 2,200 miles in ten months across some of the harshest land on the globe – I would have thought there would have been a touch of arrogance to his writing. Not with Waterman.
As I turned the pages of Arctic Crossing and learned more about what Jonathan Waterman experienced during his voyage, which he spread out over three years due to the short summer seasons in the arctic, one thing started to eat at me. The more I read about the Inuit culture, those who are commonly and generally mistakenly referred to as Eskimos, I became more and more annoyed over Waterman’s romanticization of their culture. I was interested in it, particularly since it’s something not everyone is writing about today. Yet he seemed to wax too strongly about the Inuit at times, occasionally justifiably so, but in the end it started to annoy me.
Overall, Arctic Crossing is a fantastic book about determination, traveling to the remote reaches of the earth, and a culture I haven’t read enough about when it comes to traveling. While so many writers continually talk about places like China, India, or the countries of Africa as though they’re newly discovered, Jonathan Waterman did something different and told a fantastic tale about it. I admire what he did and strongly recommend his story to travel and adventure enthusiasts, particularly those who are interested in polar exploration.