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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon




The Polar World: The Unique Vision of Sir Wally Herbert

Edited by Kari Herbert
Hardback £35.00, Limited Edition price on request
Available from Foyles and Stanfords bookshops or direct from the publisher

Wally Herbert’s career as polar explorer began in 1955 and it truly can be said that he bridged the gap between the Heroic Age of exploration and today’s more sophisticated methods. The Polar World is a very personal account of his various expeditions, illustrated extensively with his own fine artworks.

Sir Wally is a fine writer who also paints picture with words: ‘The smell of wood and linseed oil, rope and canvas, dogs, dope, blubber, tobacco; the clutter of brightly painted boxes, half-build sledges, filed rations bulging in polythene bags; the classical symphonies on the tape recorder, the buzz of conversation, and the chatter of the sewing machine build up this atmosphere of urgency, of expectation’ described their winter quarters. And he gives a most evocative account of entering Scott’s hut. There is passion, too, in his attachment to the polar regions and not least to the Greenland hunters from whom he learned so much.

The illustrations form the major part of the book, all beautifully integrated with the text. The captions describe the concept of each piece: many are inspired by original photographs with added artistic input to recreate the drama or ambiance of the scene. There are over 80 illustrations in all (though it is not clear why a few have been replicated as smaller images). The book is worth having for the paintings alone.

There is just enough detail to give the flavour of each of his journeys, and polar history is interweaved in the telling of his own story. He writes specifically of Nansen, Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, with a special tribute to his very experienced travelling partner Allan Gill. Ever respectful of those who had gone before him, when retracing Amundsen’s descent of the Axel Heidelberg Glacier he fashioned a Norwegian flag from bunting and a torn handkerchief to attach to his sledge.

The Polar World has been expertly produced, and daughter Kari Herbert can be justly proud of her first publishing venture. I’m certainly pleased to have a copy on my bookshelf.

Reviewed by S. G. Servian


The Double Musky Inn Cookbook
Alaska’s Mountain Cajun Cuisine

by Bob and Deanna Persons
Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN: 978-0-88240-619-1 HB
Price: US$19.95

This book arrived just as I was hunting for a good, spicy jambalaya recipe. With a little trepidation I opened the cookbook, unsure of what to expect; Alaska and Cajun seemed like an odd culinary marriage.

The Double Musky Inn is actually a critically acclaimed restaurant in Girdwood, Alaska. For nearly thirty years it has been owned, and run, by the Persons. Bob, from Alabama, was passionate about Alaska and Cajun food and he and his wife, Deanna, have successfully combined the two. For Cajun authenticity Bob trained with New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, and for his homage to Alaska he uses good local produce, the salmon and halibut native to the region. The cookbook is liberally sprinkled with praise and best wishes from famous and influential Americans who have dined at the Double Musky.

What about the recipes? Most of the savoury recipes use spice mixes, each having as many as twelve dry ingredients, which are the basis of much Cajun cooking. The good news is that once these are made up they sit in the cupboard ready to use at a moment’s notice. So, one Sunday evening I sat, like I imagined an alchemist might, spooning dried herbs and granules into an old jam jar. The following evening with my jam jar to hand I followed the instructions for Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya. The writing was clear and accurate although, be warned, in common with many other recipes in the book, you will need to read through the list of ingredients well before you intend to cook the dish because it refers to three other recipes that you will need to have already prepared!

I thought the Jambalaya was great. It was juicy, wet, spicy and very, very comforting. If, like my husband, you’re not expecting, or used to, dried herbs then the spice mix can be 'overpowering'. I will certainly be making the jambalaya again though, together with a few more recipes that I’m keen to try out, like Halibut Ceviche and Chocolate Pecan Pie.

The Double Musky Inn Cookbook is certainly mouth-watering: from the deep-fried appetisers, the classic Cajun entrees to the creamy, delectable desserts. However, in common with other restaurant cook books this is certainly one for the more confident cook; a cook who will not panic when one cup of shrimp stock is required, or a recipe calls for Louisiana hot-link sausage, and will, instead, use an alternative. Does the book do justice to Alaska? Well, I’m sure that, if I was visiting the Double Musky, I would happily take in a few sights along the way.

Reviewed by Maja Brattisani, expert cook, mother of two, and life coach.


300 Kelvin Degrees in the Afternoon

by George Pavlopoulos
Alexandria Publications
ISBN: 978-960-221-379-7
Price: €14.63

What am I doing reviewing a Greek novel on this website? Especially when I can’t even read Greek! Well, the 27-year-old author is one of our readers, and he has put an enormous amount of effort and passion into crafting his story.

During his extensive travels in Norway, George became interested in the Swedish Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897, and this inspired him to write his first novel. He told me that ‘It’s about their expedition, what they found there, what they observed, their whole existential journey through the Polar ice in the belle-epoque period and the romantic spirit of that era. Also, it's about how this old story is still alive today . . . the echo of that story today - in Western societies - in an era in which the polar ice is melting.’

This is a translation of the cover copy:

Spring 1897; two boats set sail from the harbour of Gothenburg. Aboard, Salomon Andrée, Nils Strindberg and Knut Fraenkel. Among them is a crew of thoughtful meteorologists, skeptical journalists, highly-strung engineers and talented cartoonists. Course of the boats, the Arctic Sea.
Days after embarking, the frozen northern route of the three men leads them to a mysterious hut on the edge of the world, then later to a hydrogen balloon - and only then will their real journey begin.
While the 20th century emerges and the domination of man on Earth reaches new heights, the three men seem determined to make their mark on the dawning century -and an audacious venture is planned, where only the southern winds can help them. After a long itinerancy, autumn will find them on a white island . . .
Years later, through a myriad of objects, impressions and visits, the story continues.

The book received a rave review in a national daily (Kathimerini, N. Vatopoulos, 1 September 2007) and it is hoped that translations might ensue – in which case we’ll keep you posted. To purchase this edition, go to

Reviewed by S. G. Servian



Alone Across the Arctic
- One Woman's Epic Journey by Dog Team

by Pam Flowers with Ann Dixon, photographs by Pam Flowers
Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN: 0-88240-539-X
Price: US$15.95

Adventure-loving older children and adults will be enthralled with this book. In February 1993, Pam set out from Barrow, Alaska with only her team of eight sled dogs, her planned destination of Repulse Bay on the western edge of the Canadian Arctic some 2,500 miles away.

We get to know the dog team individually, and and the book is peppered with vignettes of useful facts. This astounding expedition will keep everyone on the edge of their seats, and serves also as useful educational material; there is even a comprehensive study guide available free from the publisher’s website covering writing, science, geography, maths, art and other activities. No wonder this book has won three awards: the Benjamin Franklin Award, Best Travel Essay Book, A Booksense Children's 76 Pick, and CBC/NCSS Notable.

Reviewed by S. G. Servian



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