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Birthplace of the Winds: Storming Alaska's Islands of Fire and Ice

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The Aleutian Islands are truly a world apart, a chain of volcanic peaks rearing out of the icy Bering Sea a thousand miles from the coast of Alaska's mainland. Surrounded by some of the coldest, stormiest ocean on Earth, lashed by williwaws or shrouded in a blanket of fog, they are remote, forbidding, challenging — and breathtakingly beautiful on the rare occasions when the sun burns through the gray sky to reveal them in all their solitary splendor. To veteran paddlers like Jon Bowermaster and his companions, ...
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Overview

The Aleutian Islands are truly a world apart, a chain of volcanic peaks rearing out of the icy Bering Sea a thousand miles from the coast of Alaska's mainland. Surrounded by some of the coldest, stormiest ocean on Earth, lashed by williwaws or shrouded in a blanket of fog, they are remote, forbidding, challenging — and breathtakingly beautiful on the rare occasions when the sun burns through the gray sky to reveal them in all their solitary splendor. To veteran paddlers like Jon Bowermaster and his companions, the Aleutians hold a special allure, for these jagged shores and unforgiving riptides are the home waters of the kayak.

Their destination is the mythical cradle of the Aleut people, a group known as the Islands of four Mountains at the heart of this all-but-unknown archipelago. Trusting only their skill, their strength, and the seaworthiness of their fragile two-man craft, the four adventurers spent a month on these windswept, mysterious outposts of North America, risking their lives every time they launched their boats. Even a minor mishap could be deadly: a man in the water could hope to survive half an hour at most, and a team that missed landfall in the fog might be swept away by fierce currents into the trackless North Pacific. The nearest rescuers were 150 miles away — if the radio worked, If the weather was good, if...if...if.

But if the stakes were high, so were the rewards. Bowermaster vividly evokes the adrenaline thrill of facing nature at her harshest, the stunning view of the sunlit Islands from the summit of an active volcano, and the deep, mystical power of the place Itself, an ancient stepping-stone between worlds, where humans have Hued for flue thousand years but whose only inhabitants now are the mummified bodies of prehistoric Aleuts. By the time the four are picked up, they have discovered much -about the islands, about the ocean, about themselves.

A deft blend of adventure, exploration, and history, Birthplace of the Winds is an engrossing chronicle of man against the elements, a struggle at once timeless and utterly immediate, played out before a majestic, merciless backdrop.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bowermaster (The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa) admits that he is known "more as a `writer' than as an `adventurer.' " And indeed, his superb reporting and storytelling abilities animate and intensify this account of his 25-day kayaking and mountaineering trip through Alaska's Aleutian Islands with four other trekkers. In the glut of Alaskan adventure books of the last few years, this one stands out not just because of the remote Islands of Four Mountains. Bowermaster's clear vision and clean prose make for many pleasing, writerly moments: his honest catalogue of his own fear ("A certain amount of fear is good, makes you cautious. But how much is too much, before it becomes crippling?"), his interest in the Aleut inhabitants (though they invented the kayak, "the Aleuts shared little boat-building knowledge from island to island... because they were usually at war") and his ambiguous response to the land ("From a distance, it doesn't seem all bad, especially if you like extremes including lousy weather, tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanoes"). After exploring each island by land and sea and climbing the tallest Aleutian volcano, Bowermaster has produced a remarkable narrative that captures the intense history and beauty of a place most of the world will never visit. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This engrossing book tells the story of a 25-day kayaker's adventure in the largely uncharted and unforgiving waters of the Alaskan Islands of the Four Mountains. Part of the Aleutian chain, this remote area of the world promised to provide a unique and challenging experience for Bowermaster and his three companions, with no chance of rescue should the four men become lost, injured, or, as described in the most riveting passage of the book (which turns out to be a dream), roll over in their kayak and suffer hypothermia. Bowermaster, author of numerous books and articles on his adventure travels, has written a detailed, if somewhat repetitive, account of his adventures in Alaska. Replete with fascinating information about the history and society of the Aleuts who once inhabited these abandoned volcanic islands, this energetic travel narrative will appeal to both armchair and active adventurers. Recommended for public libraries. (Photographs not seen.) Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792275060
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Series: Adventure Press Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.04 (d)

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