White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic
During the early 1900s, polar exploration was "the height of fashion and public interest--the era when... dangerous journeys to the remote regions of the planet were part sporting event and part scientific expedition, draped in a cloak of nationalism." One of those voyagers was Knud Rasmussen, a part-Inuit, part-Danish explorer who was as curious about the people he encountered in his travels as he was about the surrounding landscape. In White Eskimo, historian Stephen R. Bown (The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen) takes readers into the frozen landscape of Greenland, where Rasmussen was born, and examines the life and trips he made in Greenland and across the Arctic.
Because he was part Inuit, the native people of Greenland embraced Rasmussen as one of their own. They were willing to teach him their songs and dances, myth-filled stories and aspects of daily life that other explorers were not privy to, giving Rasmussen insight into the culture of these Arctic people upon which much of today's knowledge was founded. Bown's descriptions of the many dogsled trips Rasmussen took leave no doubt in the reader's mind as to the arduousness of his adventures; the men on his teams faced starvation time and again.
The author also deftly ponders Rasmussen's personal life. Although the explorer had a wife and family in Denmark, he was willing to leave them for years at a time because of his passion for Arctic exploration. An assortment of maps and photographs help round out this informative and entertaining biography. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer