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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Review: Throwim Way Leg: Tree Kangaroos, Possums and Penis Gourds--On the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea

Throwim Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums and Penis Gourds—On the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea

By Tim Flannery. Grove Press, 1998, 326 pp.

New Guinea is a wonderland of fauna and flora found nowhere else on earth, a paradise for an ornithologist, an entomologist, a botanist, or a zoologist like Tim Flannery. But to explore the country’s riches, the researcher has to deal with a seriously rugged terrain: dense bush, steep mountains and slippery descents, slimy logs bridging flooding rivers and deep ravines, extreme heat, and humidity so intense that, as Flannery says, “You can feel the fungus growing on your skin.” There is also the disease factor—malaria, dysentery, scrub typhus, altitude sickness. And then there is the fact that when you finally arrive at a village you have no idea whether the greeting will be friendly or hostile.

To take this on, the researcher has to be fit, intrepid, up for adventure, and passionate about his work. The Australian mammologist, Tim Flannery, though too modest to cast himself as hero, is all four. He is also a writer who can draw readers into both his fieldwork and his personal experience in prose that is at once plain and gripping.

Throwin Way Leg, in New Guinea Pidgin, means “to go on a journey,”  Read More 

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Book Review: In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic

Saint Anna

In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic

By Valerian Albanov. Preface by Jon Krakauer. Introduction by David Roberts. Alison Anderson, Translator. With Additional Material from William Barr’s Translation from the Russian. Modern Library, Random House, 2000, 205 pp.

For some of us, the stories of polar exploration remain forever fascinating. They take place in an otherworldly world. Like novels, they grip us with their unpredictable challenges and turns and move us with their chancy, sorrowful deaths. But we read them always knowing that, unlike fiction, these incredible stories of endurance actually happened.

In the Land of White Death, first published in Russian in 1917, was a story I had never heard of. Like many polar tales, it is a story of survival and loss. Unlike most, though, it is a first-person narrative, related with the immediacy and intensity of a personal voice.

That voice belongs to Valerian Albanov, the chief navigation officer on the Saint Anna, which set out in August 1912 on an expedition from present-day Murmansk to Vladivostok to explore new hunting grounds Read More 

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