Roland Huntford

Off His Crocker

A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier

By

W W Norton 502pp £22 order from our bookshop

David Welky’s story starts with the ambiguous figure of Robert E Peary, the American obsessed with being the first man to reach the North Pole. In 1906 he made his initial attempt. He did not reach the Pole, though he did come closer than anyone had before, at 87º6’ North (or so he said). It was a poor reward for so much suffering, and in despair he retreated across the pack ice to the Roosevelt, his expedition ship. She was held by ice off Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic until the summer thaws. With time on his hands, and seeking a consolation prize, Peary made a side trip across Ellesmere Island. There, from a vantage point, he observed in the distance to the north, across the frozen waters of the Arctic and tantalisingly out of reach, a range of unknown snow-clad mountains. It was another continent, for all he knew. He named it Crocker Land in honour of one of his benefactors. This was the discovery that he brought back home and trumpeted abroad. It is the subsequent search for Crocker Land that is the subject of this book. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,