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Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World
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Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  166 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
While reading Valerian Albanov's In the Land of White Death, David Roberts came across the mention of an old legend of four shipwrecked Russian sailors who had managed to survive six years stranded on a barren island in the high Arctic. Incredulous, Roberts -- an expert on exploration literature who had never heard of this account -- was determined to learn the truth behin ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 2nd 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2003)
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Nov 10, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was ok
If you were to go by the title and the summary on the back of the book, you would believe that you were getting this great long story about the four people who lived on an Arctic island for six years. Now that would have been a great book!

But what we get instead is the tale of Roberts' search for information about that tale of survival, which is something completely different. We hear about his exhausting search through libraries here and in Russia in minute detail. We get the run-down of every
Apr 15, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
Some reviewers found this book disappointing because it's more about about Roberts' attempt to figure out the story of the shipwrecked Russians than it is about the survival story itself. I understand that, but as a librarian, I don't mind reading tales of research at libraries at Harvard and in Russia. And I liked the way Roberts and his friends wrestle with the book that is the main historical record for the story, getting frustrated with the book, and re-reading it and re-thinking it.

Sue Myers
Came across this book while browsing the new nonfiction section of the public library. It is the account of the author's quest to discover artifacts, historical truth and the site of a survival of 6 years of four Pomori (Russian) hunters on one of the Arctic islands near Spitzbergen beginning in 1743! Their Russian walrus hunting boat was blown off course and trapped in the Arctic ice. Four sailors with 2 days worth of food lwent ashore to look for a hut that they knew about.They located the hut ...more
Jan 02, 2011 Tao rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too long for its essence. The writer spent way too much time describing himself and his research than the "four against the arctic". The audio book is more than 10 hours long. Fortunately it is an audio book, so the time was not totally wasted, I still got my dishes washed.
Feb 25, 2016 Ethan rated it liked it
Four Against the Arctic tells the incredibly story of 4 Russian walrus hunters that became stranded on a desolate island near Greenland, they survived for 6 years, living off reindeer & scurvy grass, killing 10 polar bears with homemade lances until their rescue by a passing ship. Robert's becomes fascinated when he comes across the story and is determined to find the truth, to find more of the story. This book is more about his quest to verify the story and find more details as there are al ...more
R.J. Heller
I have read a number of books by David Roberts. This book had the allure of possibly re-living what four Russian sailors endured for six years on a desolate island home in the arctic, awaiting their subsequent rescue. What we get, are very small minute glimpses of their experience, while tagging a long with the author is his search for more information, and possible artifacts as well as locating the exact spot and place they "lived this ordeal". It is an interesting glimpse inside the research a ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it
Four Against the Arctic / David Roberts. This book was fascinating and convoluted. A tale of research in libraries, museums, and onsite in the Arctic to learn how three Russian sailors survived six years in the 1700s on a desolate island with very, very few resources, Four Against the Arctic is engrossing because of the author’s doggedness and skillful writing. There is, certainly, a lot of historical digression, cogitation and countless sources to distract and confuse, but interest is held by t ...more
Pete daPixie
Not a Cherry-Garrard standard travelogue this, but a modern day investigative account by author David Roberts. The book pursues the tale of Russian sailors back in the eighteenth century who become marooned in the Svalbard archipelago and survive for six years before eventual rescue.
Did this really happen? Was it possible to survive, reverting back to the frozen stone age, at latitudes high into the arctic circle?
'Shipwrecked on the top of the World-Four against the Arctic' recounts Roberts's de
Dec 25, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing
Yet another one of the books in a genre I love to pour through- Arctic/Antarctic survival!
Nothing comes close to this one, a true story of a 1743 Russian ship whose crew was headed North to hunt walrus. A storm blew their craft off course and left it trapped in the ice off Spitzbergen. The four eventual survivors went ashore with just two day's worth of supplies, searching for a hut they had some knowledge of that might have existed there. On the small God forsaken island they lived for the nex
Aug 31, 2009 Seth rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who can stand some pompous academia
Pretty good chronicle of the author's efforts to follow the story of the four men who survived six years in godforsaken conditions. Definitely read this book with a blanket nearby: it never gets warm. The writing is okay if you can wade through the pompous academic style. Using larger English words is fine, but overuse of some phrases and condescendingly using words from other languages smacks of someone needing to prove their academic background, rather than just writing a coherent story. Inste ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sally Chaffey
Nov 10, 2014 Sally Chaffey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: polar-history
Roberts sets out to verify an account of 4 Russian walrus hunters stranded on Edgeoya (an island next to Spitsbergen) for 6 years in the 1740s. His journey takes him from Harvard archives to the White Sea port of Mezen where he speaks to two of the survivors' descendants and to Edgeoya itself were he searches for the ruins of the castaways' hut.
Has to be one of the most absorbing books I've read … twice. More about this book to follow in my blog.
Oct 02, 2009 Unwisely rated it really liked it
This is about half a retelling of four Pomori sailors marooned in a distant corner of the Arctic (Svalbard), and half about finding out about it. As there are not the diaries kept by later Arctic expeditions, the author's main source is a near-contemporary book written by an academic. The author of this book is not impressed with that author (Le Roy), and quite a bit of the book is giving over to mocking him (apparently with reason).

The author's international research, including trying to get he
Sep 29, 2012 Marcie rated it did not like it
This book was a bait and switch. Look at that cover! The title and the back cover get you all ready for an exciting adventure tale in the arctic. This book? This book is really about the author David Roberts, who has a HUGE ego, and his researching of an event that happened several hundred years ago to Russians in the arctic. But he doesn't speak Russian. He doesn't understand Russian culture and he can't get to Russia when he needs to because of his heavy academic schedule. So instead, we get t ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Monique rated it really liked it
I thought he did a good job of weaving the story of his investigation into the real story of the four men stranded for six years in the arctic. It kept my attention and in the end I felt satisfied.
Russell King
Feb 03, 2016 Russell King rated it really liked it
Authortried to cover an interesting historical event but the lack of discovered detail led him to include mountains of minutia and tangential strings of thought to fill the pages.
Audrey Mckay
Dec 09, 2015 Audrey Mckay rated it it was ok
It was okay.

However the title is wrong, it should be more accurately named: My Experience Researching the Russian Shipwreck of 1743 and other stories.

I wish it had truly been a book devoted to the men who lived on Edgeøya for 6 years.
Jan 28, 2010 William rated it liked it
I enjoy survival stories, and this book details an extremely little know late 18th century survival epic of 4 Pomori sailors stranded on a small island above the arctic cirlce for 6 YEARS! Unfortunately, only about 1/4 of the book actually details the survival story, the rest describes the author's quest to uncover the location and facts surrounding the survival story. Still, there are a lot of little nuggets about research, Pomori and Arctic conditions that make this book an interesting read.
Dec 02, 2015 Carl rated it it was amazing
i love roberts's books. exhaustively researched while remaining compelling. a difficult feat. bravo.
Jun 17, 2012 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: february, 2010
Well-written book about four Russian sailors forced to overwinter in one of the most remote islands in the Arctic -- for six years. The story of the sailors themselves is fascinating, although not enough is known about their tale to fill out a book, so "Four against the Arctic" becomes as much about Russian red tape, the glory of research libraries, and travels to Svalbard and far northern Russia as about the overwintering. Roberts is an excellent writer, though, and keeps you with him the whole ...more
Jul 07, 2008 Abram rated it liked it
This is an interesting book about four men from the coast of the Artic Ocean that after being stranded on a remote island in the northern Atlantic Ocean, spend four years on the Island of Svalbard with not much more than a musket with ten shots and some small survival supplies. The story takes place sometime in the 1700's and then the author goes to the island to personally research the site where they had wintered for four years. It is an amazing story of survival and human struggle.
Feb 29, 2016 k added it
The title is misleading. This book is more about Roberts' search for information about and proof whether the story of 4 Russian fishermen shipwrecked for 6 years on an arctic island before being rescued is actual fact. I was disappointed. On the other hand, I enjoyed learning about the Pomori fishermen and their extraordinary skills in the wild.
Jun 13, 2012 Joan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: travelers to the Arctic circle
an amazing story. more about the author than the four who survived, though. reading this turned out to be like watching Al Capone's safe opening. I wanted more history, what I got was the modern day adventure travel story of going to the arctic circle, interesting yes, but I wanted more. Where is your source bibliography?
Apr 01, 2013 Tim rated it liked it
Be warned, it doesn't resolve. The author puts as much research into learning about this obscure survival tale, even going so far as to visit the island where it was supposed to have occurred. But there is no definite detail or factual knowledge imparted regarding the supposed survival experience.
Mar 06, 2012 Cindy rated it it was ok
It took a long time getting to the part I was interested in, which was about the men stranded in the arctic. Therefore, the book didn't turn out to be what I expected. Also, I guess I have a small vocabulary because there were way too many big words I didn't know or understand the meaning of.
Oct 21, 2013 Andy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
I really enjoyed this book. A mixture between a travel/advantage/discovery/ detective novel.
Four persons stranded on an island whose other inhabitants are polar bears!
A good read and one worth delving into to understand some humans ability to survive conditions I know I couldn't.
Feb 04, 2015 Kris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-library
This was far more about the process the author went through to uncover the story of four Russians stranded for 6 years on an Arctic island, and not as much about the actual story itself, which time and culture will keep pretty gray. It was fascinating to me.
Garret Christensen
Aug 08, 2016 Garret Christensen rated it liked it
You'll probably get bogged down in the details of Russian archive bureaucracy.
Jan 25, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
Interesting story but it was hard to finish and kind if anticlimactic.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
See this thread for more information.

David Roberts is the author of seventeen books on mountaineering, adventure, and the history of the American Southwest. His essays and articles have appeared in National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. He lives i
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