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Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 ratings  ·  205 reviews
From the acclaimed, bestselling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a fascinating and funny journey into Alaska, America's last frontier, retracing the historic 1899 Harriman Expedition.

In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury "floating university," populated by some
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Dutton (first published May 1st 2018)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  1,188 ratings  ·  205 reviews

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Jillian Doherty
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This brilliantly devourable narrative offers humorous insight, and mind blowing history within in an arm chair traveler’s guide! It desperately makes you want to go to Alaska right now!

I’ve never quoted a book within the review but it shed such incredible light in this charismatic read~

‘Henry Gannett [...] concludes by offering a “word of advice and caution” for anyone considering a trip to Alaska. “If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, alaska
2 stars equals "it was okay."

The book related the events of the 1899 Harriman expedition to Alaska while the author retraced the route in modern times.

Alaska is fascinating; this narrative is so-so. I felt that it never really hit a good rhythm in terms of the storytelling. It was a little more journalistic in tone, and often I had the sense that Adams couldn't not leave out a detail he found in his research (he was especially fond of quotations). A heavier editing hand would have improved the
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finished "God Save Texas" and this book on the same day. From now on, I'm only reading about big states. ;)
Randal White
Makes you want to head for Alaska! The author retraces an Alaskan voyage from 1899. Interesting characters, humorous stories, and some insights into what the future may hold. A fun read.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1899 a railroad magnate assembled a group of scientists and naturalists, including John Muir, charted a luxuriously outfitted steamer, and sailed up Alaska’s Inside Passage, along the Aleutian islands, and as far north as Nome. It was apparently a good time had by all, and the report of the trip turned Alaska into the prime tourism destination it is to this day. This book retraces that trip, using it as a narrative hook to examine contemporary Alaska and Alaskans. It reinforces the standard ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the summer of 1992, I traveled across much of Alaska without a car. Trains, small vans, boats and hitch-hiking were my modes of getting around. I ended my two-month journey by taking the ferry from Skagway to Bellingham down the lovely ‘Inside Passage,’ which is part of Alaska’s Marine Highway. The ‘Inside Passage’ is a coastal route for ships and boats along a network of passages which weave through the islands on the Pacific NW coast of North America. A one-way ride on the Inside Passage ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
"Fortunately, Nature has a few big places beyond Man's power to spoil - the ocean, the two icy ends of the globe, and the Grand Canyon," wrote John Muir more than one hundred years ago, whose shadow Mark Adams chased throughout the book. Reflecting on this quote, Adams writes, "The optimism of men like Muir and Grinnell helped preserve Alaska for generations that followed. As I type this, however, the ocean is warming and clogged with millions of tons of plastic. The frozen poles are melting ...more
Tamara York
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book because I love Alaska, history, John Muir, Glacier Bay, adventure stories, nature, and travel. If you love those things too, this book is for you. The author follows the route of the 1899 scientific (and pleasure) expedition along Alaska’s coast. Who was on the boat? The father of every American science (or so it seemed), John Burroughs, and John Muir. Their adventures and discoveries are recounted along with the author’s experience following the same journey 119 years later. ...more
Douglas Lowden
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Very well written. I am a big fan of Turn Right at Machu Picchu. I guess I just did not find the subject matter as interesting. There are still great anecdotes and stories from people Adams meets though... particularly good was the three levels of fun from one of his guides. I have definitely incorporated that philosophy in describing things with people I travel with... if you are really interested in Alaska and it’s history you will enjoy this book.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel, nature, alaska
In 1899, railroad tycoon Edward Harriman organized a multidisciplinary expedition to Alaska, bringing with him some of the best scientists and artists in America. They sailed -- or rather, steamed -- their way around the coast of Alaska, pushing as far north as possible. Over a century later, Mark decided to repeat their journey, to discover for himself the stirring beauty of America's 'last frontier', and to compare his experience with those of Harriman's. The result is a winsome mix of ...more
An interesting travel book which I found to be a quick read. Mark Adams travels the Alaskan wilderness to find out more about it. The glaciers are melting, it's getting warmer and a black or brown bear is difficult to identify from each other. And it's important because while you might want to play dead with one, the other is more likely to leave you alone if you fight back. Hmmm. Mark meets a variety of people and uses a variety of transportation to get around. One turns out to a member of the ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have read dozens of books on Alaska; this was not "just another" book on Alaska. The author's journey was a replica of the famous Harriman expedition of 1899, and he goes back and forth between the two journeys easily and meaningfully. He seeks out the real wilderness, the real towns, and the real people. And yes, he seeks out the effects of climate change. His final paragraph sums up his thoughts on travel to Alaska perfectly: "If you are old and want to see the finest scenery in the world, ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Maybe 4.5 stars for me. Picked this up at the airport on the way to Europe and finished it when I got home. Very enjoyable and informative read as Adams follows in the steps of a historic 1899 expedition that hauled the likes of John Muir and Edward Curtis to the frozen north. I found this book a good mix of telling that story and documenting the current state of Alaska with side trips that included some wild and wooly characters. Adams writes with a sense of humor, like Bill Bryson, but has the ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, history, travel
Prior to this I'd never heard of Mark Adams but I enjoyed his writing and humor enough from this Alaska adventure to trying another one or two of his books. In "Tip" he follows the 1899 Harriman expedition and interweaves that history with his own travelogue.
Well written, engaging, humorous at times and always enjoyable.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this Alaska travel memoir! The author alternates chapters detailing the Herriman expedition of the mid-1800s and his modern-day revisiting of their route around Alaska and it’s islands. There is a lot of interesting history, and I just loved reading about the people he encountered in the tiny towns he visited. This book is funny and educational without being dry. Such a good read!
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mark Adams traces the Harriman Alaska expedition of 1899 and produces a fascinating history.

Of particular note, John Muir and George Grinnell were two of the scientists on the expedition, and the only two who favored preservation of the Alaska wilderness. The others favored management/plundering of the natural resources. Fortunately, the efforts of Muir and Grinnell led directly to the environmental policies of their friend Theodore Roosevelt and, later, his cousin Franklin Roosevelt. Alaska,
Melinda Brasher
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book, both in the historic account of the Harriman Expedition and in the author's current-day re-creation of the voyage. The writing itself is good. The real-life characters are quirky. I learned a lot and even took a few notes (yes, I'm a nerd). If you're not as obsessed with Alaska as I am, you might find some parts a little slow, but overall it's a very good read.
Clover White
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a sucker for all things Alaskan, and when I got to the point in the book where Mark Adams goes to Yakutat, and talks to my former boss, I was so excited! Beyond that, though, this was an interesting look at Alaska, through the lens of retracing the Harriman Expedition of 1899. As a former Alaskan, I was impressed at how Adams captured the essence of Bush Alaska. Like many non-fiction reads, it wasn't a quick read, but a fun book to pick up and read a chapter here or there.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love these adventure/investigative pieces where a modern-day writer retraces the steps of explorers from the past. In this case, the past exploration was comprised of a group of scientists and experts, including the amazing John Muir. Adams writes engagingly of his own journey and weaves history in beautifully; I look forward to reading more of his work.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've lived in Alaska, as has my husband. That was my initial draw to read this book. But what KEPT me reading it was the excellent intertwining of the historical trip and the current trip the author took, and written with fascinating facts.
Mark Rybczyk
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I heard about this book on a travel podcast and now can't wait to take a trip to Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park to recreate the trip myself
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book, I did, I really did. It was incredibly dry, sometimes laugh loud out loud funny, very detailed, and made me dream of Alaska, and toggle back and forth from pictures on the internet of the places he travelled to, in a state of wonder that some of this scenery exists. Alaska is a goal, and I was shocked to see that one of the geographers on the 1899 expedition wrote what I have felt: “If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much ...more
Marlene Hayes
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and was glad to read it just before I visit Alaska and see many of the towns that this author writes about. It is very well researched and gives a thoughtful historical overview and an in-depth look at Alaska as pipelines and global warming have such an impact there.
Emily Hale
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoy Adams' travelogues and mix of his own journey with another he is following.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent introductory book into different regions of Alaska. Also excellent historical information.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.4 stars. Funny, substantive, plenty of good bear stories. ...more
Schuyler Wallace
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Railroad tycoon Edward Harriman always wealthy enough to do what he wanted. He wanted to shoot a bear and organized an expensive scientific expedition to Alaska in 1899 to get it done. Mark Adams has written an account of that trip, “Tip of the Iceberg,” and sprinkled in some of his own experiences because he wasn’t invited along on the original trip.

This is a travel book of intermixed historic and personal stories that are brilliantly written. Adams’ trip makes every “important stop that the
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been fascinated by Alaska since I first read Jack London as a teenager, later followed by James Michener's Alaska, Velma Wallis's Two Old Women, Edward Curtis's books of photographs of the Alaskan native peoples, Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak murder mysteries, Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, and, most recently, Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. Alaska is a formidable backdrop for both fiction and nonfiction, not only for its incredible natural landscape, but also the unforgiving weather ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, adventure
An extremely interesting mixture of all things Alaska with parts coming from three main adventures. First there is the rugged John Muir exploration in 1879. Twenty years later we are with Muir again on a more pleasurable cruise aboard the Elder. Finally the author’s recounts his lengthy trek around the coast in 2016. And what do we encounter? “Things that still make Alaska unique more than a century later.”
*Awesome glaciers, the vast ocean and breathtaking mountains, and towering forests,
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This will be the best armchair travel book to read during the hot summer season!
Mark Adams is a very talented travel writer, describing his journey across Alaska, following the Harriman Expedition's trail from 1899. He compares and contrasts Alaska then to Alaska now, describing the people, towns, tribes, and nature. He will touch on topics frequently discussed today like oil drilling, national parks, and climate change. However, he doesn't want that to be the focus of the book. The focus is
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