Captain Mac: The Life of Donald Baxter MacMillan, Arctic Explorer

Overview

From 1908 until 1954, Donald Baxter MacMillan spent nearly 50 years exploring the Arctic—longer than anyone else. Growing up near the ocean, and orphaned by 12, MacMillan forged an adventurous life. Mary Morton Cowan focuses on the vital role MacMillan played in Robert Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition, as well as his relationships with explorers Peary, Matthew Henson, and Richard Byrd. She follows his long and distinguished career, including daring adventures, contributions to environmental science and to ...

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Overview

From 1908 until 1954, Donald Baxter MacMillan spent nearly 50 years exploring the Arctic—longer than anyone else. Growing up near the ocean, and orphaned by 12, MacMillan forged an adventurous life. Mary Morton Cowan focuses on the vital role MacMillan played in Robert Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition, as well as his relationships with explorers Peary, Matthew Henson, and Richard Byrd. She follows his long and distinguished career, including daring adventures, contributions to environmental science and to the cultural understanding of eastern Arctic natives. Working closely with the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College, Cowan showcases many MacMillan documents and archival photographs, many MacMillan's own in this winner of the John Burroughs Nature Books for Young Readers Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Donald MacMillan (1874—1970) is not as well known as Robert Peary or Richard Byrd, but he was an intrepid Arctic explorer. Growing up in Provincetown, Massachusetts, MacMillan learned early to love the sea. Especially fascinated by the Arctic, he never gave up on his dream of going there—his trip in 1908 with Peary's expedition to the North Pole changed his life; after that, whenever he could, he headed North. Cowan extensive research includes interviews with people who knew him and an extensive search for photographs to bring Captain Mac to life for young readers. His Arctic adventures included exploration, scientific research, lecturing, teaching, and sailing. Cowan estimates that MacMillan "traveled twenty thousand miles by dogsled and well over two hundred thousand miles in the Bowdoin [his own Arctic schooner]." He made friends with Inuit families and built the first Inuit school in northern Labrador. During World War II and sixty years old, he was called back to help the Navy make navigational charts of Greenland. Of the many awards and honors MacMillan received, perhaps the most impressive is the one he helped obtain for his friend Matthew Henson, Peary's invaluable assistant, who was overlooked because he was black. Cowan's biography conveys the lure of the North and the excitement and perils of exploration, illustrated by a wealth of photos, many featuring the shimmering glaciers and icebergs that MacMillan loved so much. His unique story vividly recreates for all readers an awesome world that has now largely disappeared. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—This biography, written with obvious respect and admiration, covers the life and achievements of the Arctic explorer. MacMillan grew up reading about Arctic adventures and longed for the seafaring life, even after his father was lost at sea in 1883. After graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in geology, he joined Robert Peary's 1908 expedition to the North Pole. This was followed by other scientific explorations into the Arctic's vast unknown regions, some by airplane, where Captain Mac filmed and photographed wildlife and icebergs that he would later incorporate into his popular lecture tours. Chapters open with a black-and-white photo that acts as a backdrop for Mac's next adventure. Archival photos with explanatory captions appear on nearly every page. The author skillfully weaves primary-source quotes with short, action-oriented sentences (e.g., "Mac was lucky to escape alive!"). The grimmer aspects of Arctic life (drownings, amputations, and eating the weakest dogs) are mentioned but not addressed in detail. This engaging biography is also a solid overview of an era of exploration that still captivates adventurous youths. It will find an audience among readers who enjoyed Katherine Kirkpatrick's The Snow Baby (Holiday House) or adventure novels such as Roland Smith's Peak (Harcourt, both 2007).—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590787090
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,166,630
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Morton Cowan is the author of Timberrr … A History of Logging in New England, winner of Maine Library Association’s Lupine Honor Award, and Ice Country, an historical novel based on Donald MacMillan’s Arctic adventures. She lives near Sebago Lake in Maine.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 3, 2010

    Take a trip to the Arctic on the Bowdoin

    Mary Morton Cowan's biography of Captain Donald Macmillan is an absorbing tale of adventure and character. Cowan, whose grandfather was a friend of Mac (stated in the author's note), provides such vivid descriptions that you feel like you are sledging alongside Captain Mac as he explores the Arctic. The plentiful photos add to the experience - the icebergs, the dog teams, the fellow explorers, and, of course, Macmillan's schooner, the Bowdoin. If you want a thrilling ride with a man dedicated to exploration and science, read Captain Mac!

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