In the book, Rescue at the Top of the World winter came early to the Arctic in 1897. Frigid temperatures brought pack ice that filled the waters north of the Bering Strait. As a result, virtually the entire North American whaling fleet was trapped, stranding 300 men to die of starvation and exposure. Three escaping ships raised the alarm. Answering the call, three officers from the early U.S. Coast Guard and two missionaries volunteered to travel over 1,500 miles through the Arctic winter to reach the shipwrecked whalers. The rescuers’ perilous four-month journey, through mountainous territory and barren sub-zero landscapes never before traversed, was fraught with blizzards, wolves, steep terrain, unstable ice, hunters, and bone-piercing cold. Unaware that a rescue team was on the way, the shipwrecked men endured freezing temperatures, malnutrition, and scurvy before falling into general lawlessness. Their struggles and those of the rescuers are meticulously recreated here from century-old journals.This extraordinary chronicle of hardship and heroism will take you to the heart of one of America’s greatest maritime disasters-and the greatest Arctic rescue story in history.
About the Author
Shawn Shallowis a marketing executive with one of the largest banks in the United States. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Marquette University and has held faculty positions at Concordia University and Keller Graduate School of Management. He worked his way through college by enlisting in the Coast Guard Reserve, where he developed a lifelong interest in maritime history.
What Publishers Weekly had to say about Rescue at the Top of the World:
The command was simple: “Our orders are to make as far north as we can by sea, then land a rescue party to travel overland to the whalers. We’re to collect reindeer on the way to sustain the men on our arrival.” Silence followed this short speech, as the men of the Revenue Cutter Service-the predecessor of the United States Coast Guard- immediately recognized the rescue mission bordered on suicide. It was winter 1897, and they were being asked to make an unprecedented, 1,500-mile overland expedition through the Alaskan territory, in which temperatures would often dip as low as 50 degrees below zero. No matter, that plan would be the only way to save the 300 whalers trapped at Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of North America. Without more food, those men had little chance of surviving until summer, when their ships could again navigate the Arctic waters. The journey of the rescuers-Lieutenant David Jarvis, Second Lieutenant Ellsworth Bertholf and Dr. Samuel Call-as well as the Eskimos and missionaries that housed, fed and guided them along the way, is the focus of author Shallow’s account. His research effort in piecing together these events from journals, ships’ logs and reports is impressive. Unfortunately, his dramatization of the story lacks real narrative skill. The dialogue often fails to ring true, and the action becomes increasingly repetitive. Yet Shallow’s account is nonetheless interesting; he has unearthed a fascinating, almost unbelievable story that should find an audience among those interested in maritime history, rescue tales and life in the Alaskan territory.
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