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
The story was all over the place diverting to various places that went beyond supplying the pertinent information for the story to excess detail that need not be part of the book. I did not want a history of ...more
It is a great book about an epic 1000 mile journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon in 1869, led by a man-John Wesley Powell, who had one arm amputated during the Civil War. It is a gripping story with lessons on geology ...more
Powell himself wrote eloquently of this adventure, but Dolnick brings an outsider's sensibility to bear on the thing. For example, several of the men kept diaries, so Dolnick can compare the ...more
Parts of this were really interesting, but Dolnick's focus on including every detail written down by the va ...more
"We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown. Our boats...ride high and buoyant, for their loads are lighter than we could desire (they lost most of their food). We have but a month's rations remaining. The flour has been resifted through the mosquito nets; the s ...more
This book is different. The writing style is very accessible, and does a great job of pulling you into the story. And what a story. John Wesley Powell, floats the previously unexplored region of the Colorado River,s ...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
His companions had no experience running rapids and their equipment was sturdy but not designed for shooting rapids. Fortunately, by star ...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
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
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
That seems like some pretty good elements for a great adventure story. And while the journey for Powell and his men was ...more
Edward Dolnick’s narrative is very descriptive with enough background on the times, events and people involved. He has researched his material thoroughly and kudos for that. At times, I did feel that the description was a bit more extensiv ...more
A one armed major more interested in geology than his men, independent men who bristle at command, b ...more
I felt very emotional at the end when the crew finally made it back to 'civilization' and throu ...more
Devastating flash floods, moldy flour, near-mutiny, deceitful Mormons -- it's ...more