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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,610 ratings  ·  250 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
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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Dutton (first published May 1st 2018)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,610 ratings  ·  250 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 grande
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Janelle
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: alaska, nonfiction
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
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Mary
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. ;) ...more
Danielle
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 int ...more
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.
Raghu
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 to ...more
Jamie
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 v ...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. M ...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.
Stephen
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel, alaska, nature
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 history ...more
Leo Mccarthy
Dec 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was eager to follow Adam's journey through Alaska after reading the jacket cover in my local library. Having traveled a bit in Alaska, I'm a big fan of everything Alaskan.

Adams tale started well, providing the background and basis for his travels, comparing to Edward Harrimans 1899 expedition.

Fifty pages in, I noticed a bit of an undertone take shape via a handful of negative comments about a town and a couple of people. The comments didn't quite fit the story, so they "stuck out" a bit. The
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Lynn
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
Em'Ly Owens
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I was excited about the history I was going to learn but a third of the way through I decided it was a little too slow. This wasn't about a trip as much as about a political agenda. And I felt like the agenda wasn't spelled out, almost like he wanted to share his opinion but by beating around the bush. If you have something to say, say it.

I was disappointed but from the reviews I was in the minority. I thought from the reviews this would be more of a story and
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Linda
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book but there were definitely parts that dragged. The truth is I think that the expedition he was writing about wasn't that fascinating but Mark Adams' trip was interesting. In the past I haven't been too excited about Alaska but this book changed my perspective and I would very much like to visit Alaska. I am intrigued by the history of Alaska and also by the the people currently living in Alaska. It is definitely a different kind of living! ...more
Andi
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, t ...more
Melinda
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
Casey
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2021
I love travel books and history books, and especially love them combined. This one was just okay (maybe I am too picky now after reading so many of this genre). The narrative was difficult to follow and sometimes the historical thread distracted from the better parts of the author’s adventure. Some parts were boring, others felt rushed, and the scene wasn’t always set or described in a way that could put me there with the author. The history focused too much on the background of the individuals ...more
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. ...more
Amy
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!
Leslie
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,
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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. ...more
JW
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.
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John Wetzel
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The mix of history and travel writing makes this read more like a travel magazine than a history book, which personally, I loved. It has fun stories that give you good empathy for today's Alaskan Natives while getting a deeper understanding of the historical forces that shaped helped it reach what it is today.

Hopefully, I'll soon visit many of the places recounted in the book...
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Brady Steigauf
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book will make you want to go to Alaska - even if you never thought you’d want to! Mark Adams is a very good story teller and, having read a few naturalist books recently, this was one of the easiest to read because of that.

The book surprised me more than once and is definitely worth reading.
Beth
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. ...more
Chris
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.
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 ...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.
Cheryl
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 grand ...more
Edward Warner
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fine travel writing.
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“Alaska is essentially a small continent: big enough to hold Texas, California, and Montana (the second-, third-, and fourth-largest states) and still have room left over for New England, Hawaii, and a couple of metropolises. It contains seven mountain ranges and ten peaks taller than any in the Lower 48. Its waterfront accounts for half of all the coast in the United States. Louisiana has four times as many miles of paved roads.” 1 likes
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