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Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition (A Merloyd Lawrence Book) Hardcover – November 7, 2017

4.4 out of 5 stars 492 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"A gripping account of 'the most extensive scientific expedition in history,' whose impressive results were certainly matched by its duration and miseries. A rapidly paced story of adventure 'to be appreciated as a reminder of the power of nature and of the struggle and triumph over disaster...and of the powerful urge to persevere and return home.'"
Kirkus Reviews

"[An] excellent work of historical reconstruction that will enamor fans of the Age of Exploration."―

Island of the Blue Foxes is a rip-roaring tale of adventures, hardship, sacrifice, human hubris and--dare I say--madness...set in inhospitable landscapes and told with breezy energy. Wonderful."―Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt's New World

"One of the most significant and harrowing expeditions in the annals of European and American exploration, the Bering voyages remain largely unknown to modern readers. Inspired by the European Enlightenment, Peter the Great and his successor Empress Anna sent Danish navigator Vitus Bering 5,000 miles eastward across Siberia, then another 3,000 miles across the Pacific to the unknown coasts of North America, decades before Captain Cook's well-known voyages. Bering left his name on a sea and a strait, and his naturalist Steller identified dozens of unknown plants and animals in the New World, but perhaps the most inspiring legacy is the remarkable forbearance and human ingenuity employed by the expedition's survivors in the face of scurvy, starvation, and shipwreck. A gifted chronicler of Northern exploration, Stephen Bown tells this incredible tale with grace, authority, and a deep grasp of its significance."
Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire

"Bown's readable history should elevate Bering into the top tier of explorers. For fans of adventure, exploration, and discovery."―
Library Journal

"[A] little-known, white-knuckle tale of ambition, ingenuity and the raw fight for survival. Bown has a stellar track record of chronicling the larger-than-life tales of explorers...An amazing story, both in its intimate details of day-to-day adventure and survival and its large-scale political and scientific implications."―
Calgary Herald

"Brings North American readers into a part of history seldom written about anywhere."―
CBC News

"A worthwhile read and perhaps one of [Bown's] best. In sharing what is a remarkable story of Arctic exploration, Bown has added a welcome addition to what is already a rich catalogue of books about the Arctic and maritime exploration."―
Rocky Mountain Outlook

"[Bown] has weaved a story which details the highs and lows of one of the greatest expeditions in world history and one which has been largely forgotten by mainstream humanity. Consequently, this book is an opportunity for all to learn about Bering and his contributions to the geographic and scientific knowledge gained as a result of his efforts."―
New York Journal of Books

"Well-written, fast-paced."―
Portland Book Review

"The story of [an] epic undertaking...It should draw new readers to a neglected chapter in maritime history. Bering's voyage shows the lengths to which humans are driven by their curiosity, and demonstrates the environmental consequences of our greed."―

"[An] engrossing narrative...Naturalist Georg Willhelm Steller['s]...heroics, and the story of his mates' survival, so expertly recalled by Bown, exemplifies the unstoppable momentum of human curiosity."―
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Bown has drawn on journals, logs, letters and official reports to piece together a story never fully told before. And what a story: adventure and discovery, misery and death, and a cast of characters by turns admirable and appalling, brilliant and hopeless, annoying and plain nasty."
New Scientist

"The curious tale of an ambitious sea voyage spent mostly on dry land...The
Island of author Stephen R. Bown's title figures only in the final stages of this expedition, also known as the Great Northern Expedition. His expansive book covers far more territory, though, ensuring readers understand the related history necessary to put both of these massive voyages in context."
Washington Independent Review of Books

"The account is based on source materials, but reads like an adventure novel...Profiles of individual courage, scientific determination, and insights into the politics and struggles of expeditions create an engrossing history that's hard to put down."
Donovan?s Bookshelf

"A moving account of how the great Kamchatka expedition morphed into a ten-year odyssey of hardship and conflict...A fine addition to the literature of Arctic exploration."―
Natural History

Island of the Blue Foxes moves quickly, and [Stephen] Bown does a fine job of giving readers a strong feel for both what the men endured and how the personal characters of the major players were tested by their tribulations...A must-read."
Anchorage Daily News

"A focused, interesting summary...The book ends with an adroit summing up of the post-expedition history of events that Bering's voyages set in motion, which had huge consequences for the wildlife and peoples native to Alaska and its eventual acquisition by the US...Recommended."―

"Tells the fascinating story of Danish explorer Vitus Bering's overly ambitious and ultimately doomed scientific expedition."―
Military Officer

"This makes Bown's third book that might be found in the frozen-food section, and his best yet...This tale twists over an uncharted early eighteenth-century world where ship-wreck often spells certain doom. However, in this case, the sea gives up her dead to return and tell the living of the lessons learned."―
Seattle Book Review

"Nearly every story of Arctic and Antarctic exploration is fraught with tragedy, privation and death. However, Bown's expert account in
The Island of the Blue Foxes is a particularly grisly tale...Bown's other books include the excellent The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen, the greatest polar explorer of all time. He was first to the South Pole and among the earliest to the North Pole. Who better than Bown to write about the Great Northern Expedition?"
Internet Review of Books

"This book will appeal to a general readership, but also to students of Arctic history and specialist Arctic historians."―
Arctic Journal

"A riveting account of two expeditions...Various characters come alive in the book...But the ultimate character in the story is Russia itself and its dark colonial past."―
Down to Earth

About the Author

Stephen R. Bown is author of The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen and White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic, which won the Williams Mills Award for the best book on the Arctic in 2016. His award-winning books, including Scurvy and Madness, Betrayal, and the Lash, have led to a reputation as "Canada's Simon Winchester."
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Da Capo Press; 1st Edition (November 7, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0306825198
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0274800094
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.22 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.5 x 1.25 x 9.75 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 492 ratings

About the author

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I have written ten books on the history of exploration, science, and ideas--including books on the medical mystery of scurvy, the Treaty or Tordesillas, the lives of Captain George Vancouver and of Roald Amundsen and a doomed Russian sea voyage. My books have been published in multiple English-speaking territories, translated into nine languages and shortlisted for many awards. I have won the BC Book Prize, the Alberta Book Award, the William Mills Prize for Polar Books.

I take a biographical and narrative approach to my writing, using the techniques of fiction writing - strong storytelling, creative language, emphasizing people, their decisions, actions and motivations - to tell factually and historically accurate stories. I believe that people and their behaviour never change, only the context is different. My lifelong interest in history is fueled by the lessons to be learned from studying the successes and failures of history's greatest thinkers, leaders and innovators, those who challenged conventional thinking and entrenched power structures to change their world. I am particularly interested in how the world we live in today was formed by individuals who were responding to the big challenges of their time, and in particular, how and why those individuals became pioneers.

"I have long been interested in the North American fur trade, particularly the early days during the first tentative meetings between peoples, when the world was a very different place socially, scientifically and technologically. For whatever reason it seems that this period is often misrepresented and misunderstood. While the data- statistics and numbers and facts-are obviously a fundamental background to understanding the history, it has always been the people who have fascinated me. People who were biologically the same as you and me-just as intelligent and motivated by the same basic urges-but who lived their lives and made their decisions within the boundaries of different cultural and geographical constraints."

I live in a small town in the Rocky Mountains with my family. When I'm not writing I'm usually reading, mountain biking, hiking and camping in the summer, and downhill and cross country skiing in the winter.

My website includes more information about my books including reviews and awards.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
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