By Peter Freuchen. Introduction by Gretel Ehrlich. Echo Point Books and Media. 400 pp.
Arctic Adventure isn’t strictly a travel book. But then travel itself isn’t a strictly defined category—it so often bleeds into memoir, autobiography, history. Freuchen’s book is all of these and ethnography as well. In 1910 he left his native Denmark to set up a trading post in north Greenland with the explorer Knud Rasmussen, and over the next 14 years he settled among the Inuit, married an Inuit woman, Navarana, and started a family. Arctic Adventure draws a vibrant portrait of the Inuit, whose fascinating culture is so different from ours in the West.
Of course, as its title suggests, the book recounts adventures as well. Inevitably, it is filled with hair-raising tales of survival—this is the Arctic, after all, and Freuchen is an explorer. “Traveling along an unknown coast,” he writes, “not knowing what or whom to expect next, is the most exciting experience in the world.” He and Rasmussen cross the Greenland ice cap by dog sledge, a feat that had not been accomplished on such a difficult route before. On one journey, he and his companions are caught by the ice breaking up all around them, and toward the end of his stay he—with a badly injured leg—and a young man just manage to make it on a trek through heavy clay. Exhaustion and near-starvation on these journeys are the norm.