Thursday, July 29, 2021

Book (and Blog) Notes: Pitzer on Barents, Hunter on Georgian Bay

The Northwest Passage  -- the attempt to sail over the top of North America -- gets all the attention. 

But in Europe's early-modern efforts to find a sailing-ship route to China, there was also a southwest passage around South America (pioneered by Magellan), a southeast passage around Africa (Bartholomeo Diaz, Vasco da Gama) and, least noted of all, a northeast passage, across the top of Russia.

Today the more attentive of the CBC-Radio listeners in my household drew my attention to this interview with the American journalist Andrea Pitzer about Icebound, her recent biography of Willem Barents, the Dutch sailor and cartographer. Barents pursued that northeastern route, suffering in his ventures to Nova Zembla and other parts of Arctic Russia many of the hellish experiences of sixteenth century voyagers everywhere. 

Speaking of voyagers, I recently noticed the lively blog Wild Great Lakes about, well, what it says. It's the work of the Canadian historian Douglas Hunter, and includes some of Hunter's own marine explorations:

This is Hunter's recent sonar scan of a wreck he judges to be the Wawanet, looking like a cottage-country Erebus or Terror sunk off Beausoleil Island, Georgian Bay, in 1942, with a loss of  twenty-five.  

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