Navigation Bar E-mail Us Maps Publications Search Home

Arctic Crossing: A Journey Through the Northwest Passage and Inuit Culture

The Arctic—with its twenty-four-hour daylight, surprisingly curious animals and inexplicable humming noises—is a world of constant danger and limitless possibility. This unforgiving landscape is home to the Inuit (the name they prefer to “Eskimos”), whose complex and little-studied society is fascinating in its divergence from as well as its assimilation into Western culture. Arctic Crossing
Jonathan Waterman’s 2,200-mile journey across the roof of North America took him through Inuit communities in Alaska to Nunavut, Canada’s new, 770,000-square-mile, self-governed territory. His story, at once illuminating and alarming, offers firsthand observations of their life, language and beliefs; records their reactions to global modernization; documents their centuries of unjust treatment at the hands of Kabloona (bushy-eyebrowed whites); and witnesses unemployment, teen suicide and such persistent plagues as spousal violence and substance abuse. From the perspective of his 1997–1999 voyage—as the Inuit stand on the brink of a more hopeful, independent future—he also looks into a past marked by famous (or infamous) Arctic explorers, government cover-ups and environmental destruction.

This beautifully written work of intrepid reporting and even scholarship also reveals the physical risks and psychological perils of crossing the legendary Northwest Passage. Utterly alone for weeks at a time, Waterman struggles against freezing conditions, the tricks played on him by his own mind and dangers more complex than aggressive bears, stormy seas and mosquito blizzards. Following the advice of an Inuit shaman, who said that “those things hidden from others” are discovered only “far from the dwellings of men, through privation and suffering,” Waterman kayaks, skis, dogsleds and sails across the Great Solitudes in a thrilling and ultimately successful quest for this “true wisdom,” arriving at a profound understanding of environment and culture.
"Jonathan Waterman's excellent book, Arctic Crossing chronicles his solo three year expedition that follows 2200 miles of coastline from Prudoe Bay to eastern Canada . . . If you taped all the previous pages written about the Northwest Passage, end to end, it would reach from Tuktoyakuk to the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. But we are in professional hands here, and Waterman leads us simply and elegantly through the history and spirit of the region . . . Waterman carefully documents that current Inuit society has become dysfunctional. Sadly, he concludes, 'Everything Inuit have taught me shows that the world, even the remote Arctic, is a different place from what I would like it to be.' . . . Arctic Crossing is a complex and rewarding book, evocative and thought-provoking." —Jon Turk, Paddler Magazine
"Waterman's perspective on the inevitable clashes between his own culture and that of the Inuit is honest and insightful. He is not drawn into glorifying the Inuit's pre-contact past, despite its attraction for him, and does not shirk from talking about the current problems....Arctic Crossing is a step above many of the adventure books currently on the market and will be of interest to travellers, armchair or otherwise. However, its lasting value will be its snapshot of the struggles faced by the Inuit culture in the midst of painful transition." John Wilson, author of North with Franklin: The Lost Journals of James Fitzjames.

Written by Jonathan Waterman. Published by Random House Canada, 2001.
Catalogue No. 0-679-31090-8
Price $39.95
Format Hardcover
Pages 356
Language English only
Price and availability subject to change. Shipping and applicable taxes extra.
Questions about this product? Please e-mail us.
Last modified: May 9, 2001

Aboriginal Issues main page · Paddling main page · Travel in Western Canada main page
What's New · Home · Search · Books on Canada · Canadian Maps and Charts · Ordering · E-mail Us

©Federal Publications Inc., 1998 - 2003
165 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 3B8
Phone: (416) 860-1611 or toll-free 1-888-433-3782 · E-mail: