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The Magnetic North: Travels in the Arctic [Kindle Edition]

Sara Wheeler
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
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Book Description

Smashing through the Arctic Ocean with the crew of a Russian icebreaker, herding reindeer across the tundra with Lapps and shadowing the Trans-Alaskan pipeline with truckers, Sara Wheeler discovers a complex and ambiguous land belonging both to ancient myth and modern controversy. The Magnetic North is a spicy confection of history, science and reflection in which Wheeler meditates on the role of the Arctic: fragmented lands which fed imaginations long before the scientists and oilmen showed up (not to mention desperado explorers who ate their own shoes). The Magnetic North tells of all this, plus gulag ghosts, old and new Russia, colliding cultures and bioaccumulated toxins in polar bears.

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Product Description


One of the greatest travel books of our times - poignant, funny, a delight to read. --The Independent

Provoking, zestful and always engaging. --The Sunday Times

You might get to travel in the Arctic yourself; if you don't, this book is the next best thing. --The Times

Book Description

Over a decade after her exploration of the Antarctic in Terra Incognita, Sara Wheeler uncovers the beautiful, brutal reality of the Arctic.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3754 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (10 Jun. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099516888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099516880
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #73,345 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unique description of the Arctic regions 13 July 2010
Sara Wheeler's previous book about the Antarctic was a revelation and lived on in the mind for many years after reading it. Ten years - and two children - on 'The Magnetic North: Travels in the Arctic' finds her at the opposite end of the world and is, if anything, better than its predecessor. The book describes a series of journeys, with and without children, that Sara Wheeler takes across and around the vast and complex region that is the Arctic. She excels in describing the complexities of life there and, while never being anything other than compassionately clear-eyed, is especially eloquent in bearing witness to the appalling damage done to the way of life of the native people of the Arctic region by the many nations that lay claim to sovereignty over it. Wheeler's writing is clear, concise and often wryly funny. Overall, a terrific read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpeice of Arctic record in the 21st century 7 Aug. 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is more than a travel book about Sara Wheeler's extended visits to Chukotka and other Russian territories, Alaska, Artic Norway, Canada, Greenland, Svarlbard (Spitzbergen) and Lappland.

The Arctic of this book is not only a disintegrating home to native people's, nor just the source of 25 % of the world óil reserves and much of its mineral wealth, nor just a cauldron of scientific investigation into global climate change, nor just a massive ice shield with its own history of endeavour and of popular reporting of these endeavours, nor just a source of inspiration to writers, artists, filmmakers and naturalists. It is all of these framed in lucid, colourful, personal and yet unsentimental style.

Her experiences of her visits, sometimes accompanied by one of her children, are enriched by extensive reference to the history and literature about the region. The stories about the people she meets and the characters that are important in Artic history leave you gagging for more. She very often stays for extended periods of time at scientific bases or at oil depots or travels with truckers on the ice roads or with nomadic people - she describes attempting to breast feed her baby whilst it was strapped to a reindeer like the Sami do. She empathises with those characters that were sympathetic to their environment - writers, like Mowat - film makers, like Flahery - atmopheric scientists, like Jack Dibb - artists like Rockwell Kent - or people who mapped the ice cap, like Gino Watkins who pioneered the jet refuelling stations in Greenland or James Rae of NorthWest Passage fame. She respects some recognised explorers like Nansen but has no time for those who set out "to conquer the artic like the fame seeking Peary or the arrogant , incompetent British admiral Franklin.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 15 May 2011
This book is a giant leap from her book about the Antarctic, Terra Incognita, which I found good but not gripping. However The Magnetic North, not an easy book to skim through, kept me hooked to the last page. Sara Wheeler's language is exquisite and her research knowledge taught me things about the Arctic I didn't being to know, despite having ready quite widely on the subject. The history background, Stalin, the wars, were not only interesting but written in such a way it painted the full picture. If you are interested in the Arctic, its history and its people read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magnetic North 27 Aug. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A truly fascinating read which opens your eyes to the changing world we live in. This book tells us how fragile our earth is and how how tough it is for the people living in those extreme climes of the frozen North. Sara Wheeler writes in a wonderful engaging manner that is both descriptive and emotional. Showing the adaptation of human nature to survive the ever changing conditions of the Polar regions makes us, the reader, realise the delicate balance between environmental issues and commercialism.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read. 19 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating to be taken by the writer to places that you see on a map but have little chance of visiting.
The content is well researched and put together and gives a much wider and historical perspective to the Arctic area.
My only reservation would be that I wanted to spend time in the personal company of indigenous people where they still maintained traditional lifestyles.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not quite as good as Lopez! 11 Aug. 2010
Magnetic North has lots of fascinating detail and up-to-date assessment on the various pressures at work on the Arctic peoples and topography. It's a good, sound, informative read. However, Sara Wheeler's style doesn't always flow too well (lots of distracting bracketed this one) and there is none of the poetry and inspirational vision of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams. Read Wheeler for the current scene, but read Lopez to see what a great writer can bring to the idea of North.
Ted Eames
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4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling out 29 Oct. 2014
By Jules
An update on life and work in the Arctic, with an interesting array of characters and processes, plus thoughts on climate change and reflections on life.

Good read from a warm and comfortable environment.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 23 Jun. 2010
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Sara Wheeler's two previous books I was fairly disappointed with this one. Previous strengths such as the author's key involvement in the text and historical references don't seem to really work this time around and, like one of the other reviewers, I found the text overly flowery and elaborate plus I felt the overall tone was slightly mawkish. Despite all this there are good moments and I did learn some interesting things, probably worth reading if you're interested in the area and if you are a particularly big fan but not a book I would recommend otherwise.
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