North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice

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9780070580527: North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice

In June 1994 Alvah Simon and his wife, Diana, set off in their 36-foot sailboat, the Roger Henry, to explore the hauntingly beautiful world of icebergs, tundra, and fjords lying within one of the Earth's most remote regions -- the Arctic Circle. North to the Night recounts this remarkable, death-defying voyage, which proved to be as much a spiritual journey as an oceanic one.Despite the careful preparation and ingenuity that had seen the Simons through a series of ordeals four months into their journey, Alvah and Diana found themselves trapped in Tay Bay, 100 miles from the nearest settlement. When Diana's father then fell terminally ill, she made the wrenching choice to be with him in New Zealand, boarding the last rescue helicopter of the season and leaving Alvah to survive the long polar night alone with his cat, Halifax.Faced with screaming blizzards, perpetual darkness, and aching loneliness, Alvah learned that more dangerous than the beasts prowling outside the boat were the demons within. Forced to confront the awakening of his spiritual self, he emerged five months later a transformed man. His powerful, triumphant story combines the lyrical excursions of Barry Lopez with the suspense of Into Thin Air to explore the hypnotic draw of our planet's most dangerous beauties.

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Review:

Following his "Arctic dreams" that began with a photograph of the haggard crew of the ill-fated ship Endurance, Alvah Simon and his wife, Diana, set sail to winter in the high north. "We call them explorers, but I knew that look in their eyes," Simon writes of the early Arctic adventurers. "They were seekers, and that is a different thing." With self-discovery as a deeper agenda, the couple ventures into Tay Bay of remote Bylot Island; it is their ultima Thule--"the Last Unknown." Their small boat is willingly frozen in the ice. When Diana is airlifted out of the Arctic to tend to an emergency back home, Simon is unexpectedly left in solitude. His journey turns inward as he confronts the "uncomfortable awakening of my spiritual self." In the waning daylight, then total darkness, Simon's days are punctuated by depression and mania, a crackled voice over the radio, Inuit visitors, and hard-earned lessons as he is driven by the forces of the Arctic winter and by "the total loss of the sun." In this elegant, well-paced book, the Arctic darkness becomes a psychological landscape perforated with light and revelation, and Simon's thrilling tale is as captivating as his language. There is a welcome intimacy here as we share the same icy hull, listening close to this searching man. Simon courageously tells us about his darkest moments, dreams, and nightmares, and when the sun emerges, new eyes greet land and relationships. Simon has discovered his ultima Thule. --Byron Ricks

From the Back Cover:

"North to the Night is a significant addition to the literature of the Arctic, by an author-explorer of the first rank. Alvah Simon writes beautifully about his iced-up world and, indeed,about Nature itself, but without the dreamy romanticism that has sunk many a lesser narrative. His book is the genuine article. Urgently recommended."--Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places: A Journey in the North and An Evening Among the Headhunters. "Punctuated with wit, chart, surprisingly turns, spiruality, romantic views, and crystalline insights, North to the Night is more than just a great read. Through gales, blizzards, endless night, crushing ice, and near sinking we are taken to the edge of madness and the core of human frailty and strength.--Steve Callahan, author of Adrift. "This is truly an adventure story--an intense and gripping exploration of the extreme reaches of the outer and inner world. It reminded me of Jon Krakauer's work, with its blend of suspense and analysis and sheer ability to communicate why and how people do extraordinary things. Though set in the dark of the long Arctic winter, North to the night is filled with illumination.--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and The Age of Missing Information.

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