- Ordeal by Ice: The Search for the Northwest Passage (Top of the World Trilogy, Vol 1) © 1960, 1973
- McClelland and Stewart Ltd.
- 428 pages
Ordeal by Ice is the first book in Mowat’s The Top of the World trilogy. In these books, Mowat collects and edits the journals of the arctic explorers from first discovery to the modern era. This first volume provides the reader a window into the hard life of the explorers who searched for the Northwest Passage.
These explorers suffered through hardships with a fortitude I didn’t know was possible. Death by scurvy or other means was a constant companion. Winter sled trips where the sailors marched hundreds of miles were routine. Of course, frostbite was also an ever-present threat.
The explorers were not all paragons of virtue, though. Many of the explorers looked down on the local Inuit as savages and ignored the wisdom they could have gleaned. More than a few people died for their hubris. Mowat makes much of this theme in his editorial comments.
One great feature of this collection is the detailed maps. Every explorer is graced with a map of their route, complete with overland sled trips and wintering sites where applicable.
If you’re interested in seeing just what extreme circumstances can do to a man through that man’s own eyes, these collected and edited journals are a treasure.