Down the Great Unknown
0n May 24, 1869, a one-armed Civil War veteran named John Wesley Powell and a ragtag band of nine mountain men embarked on the last great quest in the American West. No one had ever explored the fabled Grand Canyon; to adventurers of that era it was a region almost as mysterious as Atlantis -- and as perilous.
The ten men set out down the mighty Colorado River in wooden row...more
His companions had no experience running rapids and their equipment was sturdy but not designed for shooting rapids. Fortunately, by star ...more
Most accounts of the Colorado River Exploring Expedition focus on Powell and his account of the trip, but Dolnick elevates two other accounts by crew members to tell the story of the trip. The focus is on the rapids and the barreling river, rather than on Powell. Even better, Dolnick regularly breaks into the narrative to offer modern takes on many of the rapids by experienced boatmen.
The science o ...more
One man left the group at the first opportunity after one of their boats was destroyed early on. The rest faced extreme temperatures, rain, rapids, lost supplies, food that went rancid or moldy, and more rapids. Lining the boats or portaging them, was often necessary, but difficult work and time consuming.
I f ...more
I had considered reading Powell's book about this trip, but I'm glad I read this secondary source instead. Dolnick does a great job comparing what Powell wrote vs. what others ...more
The story of John Wesley Powell's journey through the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly epic and an amazing testimony to the indomitable determination (and luck) of the rag-tag group of men who were first to brave the cliffs and rapids of the mighty Colorado River and the first to survey the full length of the Grand Canyon. Author Edward Dolnick provides an accessible narrative that captures not only the spirit of the adventure, but someth ...more
Powell, a multi-faceted one-armed Civil War veteran, was the leader of the group, and much like another of my favorite adventurer-heroes, Ernest Shackleton, probably singlehandedl ...more
A solid overview of not only Powell's expedition, but other pertinent stories. From accounts of the American Civil War to frontier anecdotes to modern river running tales, Dolnick does an excellent job filling out the figures of the expedition and the canyon itself. Sadly, the tangents are often far more interesting than the expedition itself. That being said, it's still a worthwhile read.
Really an excellent account of John Wesley Powell's expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers from Wyoming through the Grand Canyon in 1869. The author does a great job explaining what they were facing and provides many good anecdotes to help the reader appreciate the obstacles. Having just been in the Grand Canyon helped me to visualize it as well. The book is based mostly on firsthand, contemperaneous accounts and he goes a good job of explaining the different personalities and tensions of ...more
That seems like some pretty good elements for a great adventure story. And while the journey for Powell and his men was ...more
I felt very emotional at the end when the crew finally made it back to 'civilization' and throu ...more
I LOVE reading adventure books and have read other books about river exploration.
I thought this was a little slow (lots of rapids, lots of portaging, little food - repeat).
Then there was an interruption of a detailed account of the gruesome events of the Civil War. I skimmed some of it because it was so disturbing. It was a welcome relief from the river stories.
I really enjoyed the last chapter about what happened afte ...more
The one thing about this that started to get old is there's only so many times you can read about rapids before they all just blur together. Rapid, rapid, rapid, rapid and more rapids.
Devastating flash floods, moldy flour, near-mutiny, deceitful Mormons -- it's ...more