Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

by Brian Castner


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In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie traveled 1200 miles on the immense river in Canada that now bears his name, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage that had eluded mariners for hundreds of years. In 2016, the acclaimed memoirist Brian Castner retraced Mackenzie's route by canoe in a grueling journey — and discovered the Passage he could not find.

Disappointment River is a dual historical narrative and travel memoir that at once transports readers back to the heroic age of North American exploration and places them in a still rugged but increasingly fragile Arctic wilderness in the process of profound alteration by the dual forces of globalization and climate change. Fourteen years before Lewis and Clark, Mackenzie set off to cross the continent of North America with a team of voyageurs and Chipewyan guides, to find a trade route to the riches of the East. What he found was a river that he named "Disappointment." Mackenzie died thinking he had failed. He was wrong.

    In this book, Brian Castner not only retells the story of Mackenzie's epic voyages in vivid prose, he personally retraces his travels, battling exhaustion, exposure, mosquitoes, white water rapids and the threat of bears. He transports readers to a world rarely glimpsed in the media, of tar sands, thawing permafrost, remote indigenous villages and, at the end, a wide open Arctic Ocean that could become a far-northern Mississippi of barges and pipelines and oil money.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385541626
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 428,539
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Brian Castner is a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer who received a Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War. He is the author of two books, The Long Walk (2012) and All the Ways We Kill and Die (2016), and the co-editor of the anthology The Road Ahead (2017). His journalism and essays have appeared in Esquire, Wired, Vice, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and other publications. The Long Walk was adapted into an opera that has been performed at prestigious venues nationwide.

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Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Disappointment River"
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Copyright © 2018 Brian Castner.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Prologue 1

1 The North West Company, 1788 3

2 Into The North, 2016 11

3 Scotland, 1774 16

4 New York, 1775 23

5 Montreal, 1778 31

6 Detroit, 1784 41

7 Into the Pays d'en Haut, Spring 2016 51

8 To Grand Portage and the English River, 1785 57

9 Matonabbee and Awgeenah 71

10 Murder at the Old Establishment, 1787 84

11 To the Northwest Passage, 1788 93

12 All It Takes Is Time, 2016 102

13 Embarkation, June 1789 110

14 The Rapids of the Slave, June 2016 117

15 Shoot The Messenger, June 1789 127

16 Thunderstorms And Raids, June 2016 138

17 Into The Mountains, July 1789 163

18 The Plagues of the Deh Cho, July 2016 169

19 The Dogrib, July 1789 192

20 Rapids Without Rapids, July 2016 200

21 You Can Starve on Rabbits, July 1789 215

22 Fort Good Hope to Tsiigehtchic, July 2016 220

23 Satisfy The Curiosity, Tho' Not The Intent, July 1789 241

24 Into The Earth Sponge, July 2016 248

25 The Highest Part of the Island, July 1789 260

26 A Sea of Ice, Frozen No More, July 2016 267

27 Many Returns 274

Epilogue 289

Acknowledgments 297

Notes 299

Selected Bibliography 314

Index 319

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