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Hunters of the Great North

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Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879 – 1962), of North Dakota, was an arctic explorer and ethnologist. Because of his studies of the Eskimos, his discoveries of land, the application of new ideas and new methods of exploration, Stefansson was considered the foremost polar explorer of his day, and one of the few great explorers of all time.

During a period of three or four years Mr. Stefansson has produced a creditable list of books about the Arctic. In some respects his service in publishing the results of his Northern studies has differed from that of earlier explorers. He has challenged our preconceptions about the Arctic. “Hunters of the Great North” gives details of Northern life such as have doubtless come within the experience of all Arctic explorers, but which are new to the average American reader. In short, it is an elementary text-book of the Arctic.

Stefansson lived among the Eskimos of the Mackenzie River, studying their language and adopting their mode of life, and spending ten winters and thirteen summers in the polar regions. Among Stefannson's most famous discovery was that of a race of blond Eskimo on Coronation Gulf.

Stefansson writes:

"In the present book I have tried by means of diaries and memory to go back to the vivid impressions of my first year among the Eskimos for the story of what I saw and heard."

In describing his confrontation with a polar bear, Stefansson writes:

“I heard behind me a noise like the spitting of a cat or the hiss of a goose. I looked back and saw, about twenty feet away and almost above me, a polar bear. I had overestimated the bear's distance from shore, and had passed the spot where he lay. From his eye and attitude, as well as the story his trail told afterward there was no doubting his intentions: the hiss was merely his way of saying, "Watch me do it!" Or at least that is how I interpreted it; possibly the motive was chivalry, and the hiss was his way of saying Garde!”

Contents
I. PREPARATIONS FOR A LIFEWORK OF EXPLORATION
II. DOWN THE MACKENZIE RIVER THROUGH 2000 MILES OF INDIAN COUNTRY
III. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ESKIMOS
IV. CAPTAIN KLINKENBERG—SEA WOLF AND DISCOVERER
V. THE WHALING FLEET SAILS AWAY
VI. LEARNING TO LIVE AS AN ESKIMO—ON A DIET OF FISH WITHOUT SALT
VII. HOW AN ESKIMO SAILED THROUGH THE STORM
VIII. AN AUTUMN JOURNEY THROUGH ARCTIC MOUNTAINS
IX. THE SUN GOES AWAY FOR THE WINTER
X. LOST IN THE MACKENZIE DELTA
XI. AN ARCTIC CHRISTMAS WITH AN ENGLISH COUNTRY GENTLEMAN
XII. THE LIFE AT TUKTUYAKTOK
XIII. LEARNING TO BUILD A SNOWHOUSE AND TO BE COMFORTABLE IN ONE
XIV. TRAVELS AFTER THE SUN CAME BACK
XV. WE GO IN SEARCH OF OUR OWN EXPEDITION
XVI. A SPRING JOURNEY IN AN ESKIMO SKIN BOAT
XVII. A RACE OVER THE ARCTIC MOUNTAINS IN SUMMER
XVIII. ON A RAFT DOWN THE PORCUPINE RIVER
SHORT STORIES OF ADVENTURE
I. HOW I LEARNED TO HUNT CARIBOU
II. HOW I LEARNED TO HUNT SEALS
III. HOW WE HUNT POLAR BEARS

348 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1922

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Vilhjálmur Stefánsson

49 books18 followers
Vilhjálmur Stefánsson was a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist.

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
November 29, 2018
Amazing descriptions of life in the arctic. Eskimos thrive and enjoy life in places these explorers would di
Amazing description of life in the arctic. Impressive detail and approach to explaining his experiences. The seem less way the Eskimos have adapted to the way of life in the most hostile terrain is something to really think about when considering the strength of humankind and our enxlsss ability to adapt.
February 16, 2019
Good read

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1 review
September 6, 2020
Highly recommended

This is a wonderful book written by the rarest of people, a highly educated white of the early twentieth century who doesn't treat indigenous people as inferior. Very interesting and enjoyable description of arctic life.
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395 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2021
The quality of the hard copy book was rather lacking (missing words, commas, and full stops). At the same time, it revealed many pragmatic details about living in the Arctic. Very positive and upbeat.
85 reviews
October 8, 2011
Non-fiction, travel to the Far North, living with Eskimo. Events of the beginning XX c, still wilderness around, Hudson Bay Company times.

Even, slow flowing travel observations, then more interesting descriptions of what he encountered, in Wilkie Collins and Dr. Watson style.

The kind of life was there, inventive solutions for real life problems at such harsh climate, what could be done to prevent life threatening misadventures that earlier explorers encountered. Live and learn.

Some interesting stuff about wood-moss-earth type of houses, more warm than log cabins (in abundance of fuel, naturally), igloo as a camping kind of housing, ways to solve the freezing perspiration problem and travel at extremely low temperatures without freezing to death, waterproof things - without waterproofing as we know it, meat only eating - without scurvy, extreme complexity of Eskimo language.

If you are interested in the history of region, native people history, both north and below, and don't mind sometimes slow events passing, it's a good book for armchair vacation.

Another, not encountered and not mentioned aspect of their lives before times described in this book, is in Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage by Steven LeBlanc.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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