Monday, 15 September 2014

Iceland Breakthrough

Iceland Breakthrough
Paul Vander-Molen with Jack Vander-Molen
The Oxford Illustrated Press in Association with Channel Four Television Company: 1985
Illustrated with many photographs in full colour, and black-and-white maps.
A spirited account of a 12-man expedition along the Icelandic river Jökulsá á Fjöllum from its source as a geothermal spring under the Vatnajökull Glacier to the sea just below the Arctic Circle, which took place in Summer 1983. While much of the narrative focuses on the practicalities of travelling through dangerous and challenging terrain (used to train US astronauts prior to the moon landing) the author is not immune to its visual delights, and provides many atmospheric accounts of the impressive glacial regions through which the team passes. A section on the ice caves of Vatnajökull is of particular interest, as it recounts the first exploration by kayak of the under-ice source of Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Documentation was a priority of this expedition, which included an integral film crew employing 'point of view' camera work, resulting in excellent illustration. The Royal Geographical Society awarded Paul Vander-Molen the Ness Award in recognition of his role in this expedition.
Hardback, 140 pages, 26 cm x 21 cm

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Moonlight at Midday

Moonlight at Midday
Sally Carrighar
Michael Joseph, London: 1959
Published the same year as Elizabeth David's French Provincial CookingMoonlight at Midday is a venerable insight into a very different culture. The author was a naturalist who originally visited Alaska to spend a single year studying the environment but stayed, making her home there for a decade. The book falls into two parts, the first being an intelligent, detailed and patiently observed account of life in Unalakleet, then a small coastal settlement known for its abundance of bears, marten, mink, beavers and foxes, not to mention marine wildlife. The second part of the book, which records the author's experiences as a home-owner in Nome and Fairbanks has a more humorous bent, not without a touch of exasperation at times, and offers a vivid account of the practical challenges of living on what was then a frontier. The ice that features in the latter section tends to be within domestic water and oil pipes; it is the first part of the book that will be of most interest to the researcher of wild ice. Carrighar records the intimate knowledge of the sea ice demonstrated by Inuit and bush pilots - and describes some of her own risky winter excursions. 'It is after the ice has broken,' she notes, 'that good hunting develops, and also the insecurity.'
Hardback, 314 pages,