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Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic's Edge

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  930 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Jill Fredston has traveled more than twenty thousand miles of the Arctic and sub-Arctic-backwards. With her ocean-going rowing shell and her husband, Doug Fesler, in a small boat of his own, she has disappeared every summer for years, exploring the rugged shorelines of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen, and Norway. Carrying what they need to be self-sufficient, the tw ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published October 10th 2002 by North Point Press (first published 2001)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Books Ring Mah Bell
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
I purchased this book during a "books about rowing" binge. The cover shows a woman in her scull, floating peacefully next to an amazingly beautiful iceberg. Envy engulfed me; I want to see that! I want to row in the wilderness! Two of my favorite things in one: nature and rowing, what could be better?

It became evident early on in the book that my idea of nature and her idea of nature are dramatically different. Very, very different. Maybe it's the fact that the long, cold winter we've had here
I do not have the fortitude to leave behind the comforts of modern civilization to endure a season in the wilds of the Arctic, whether in a cabin like A Woman in the Polar Night or rowing around the land masses of the Arctic, like Jill Fredston and her husband Doug Fesler. I sure do love to read about these intrepid souls, however. For one thing, both Christiane Ritter (of A Woman In the Polar Night) and Jill Fredston can write. The reader is transported to these remote and inhospitable location ...more
Tales from a lifetime of rowing -- rather different kind of book than the 'I did a cool thing once' type. In the latter, the hypothetical author would spend the whole book writing about one summer's trip: preparation, how far they travelled each day, detailed descriptions of scenery... The beauty of the sort of book that this is is that the author can pick the best-of moments, can take a dozen different battles with ice and focus only on the one or two that are most interesting.

(Don't get me wro
Sarah Sammis
Jul 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: released
Some of the best books I've ever read have just fallen into my lap. Rowing to Latitude is one of those books.

Rowing to Latitude chronicles a number of kayaking trips that Jill Fredston took with her husband, Doug. When they aren't kayaking, Jill and Doug work as avalanche experts in Alaska. Most of the the trips described are along the Alaska coast or along rivers that end in the Arctic Circle. The final chapters of the book cover their trips around Greenland.

I enjoyed the Alaska and Canada tri
Daniel Brown
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic story by someone who really lives the adventure and conveys it in a true and heartfelt manner. Would also highly recommend her book Snowstruck as well.
Rachel Cotterill
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I started reading this book at a friend's house in Greenland, in 2010. The beginning of the story stuck with me: an intense blend of spectacular landscape and impressive endurance, practical tips and emotional depth. I had every intention of tracking down a copy once I got home, but it wasn't in print and I failed in my first attempts to find a secondhand copy. I'm glad to have finally rectified this. If you love the Arctic the way I do, this is a compelling account of exploring the coast at sea ...more
Gypsy Lady
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am adding this book to my library. Many quotable quotes. Here are a few samples:

Page 285
Greenland is beautiful with dramatic mountains and a landscape of power, but it is not immune to the cancer that is all around us sickening the world at large.

Page 286
It is easy to take open water for granted and forget how vulnerable we really are.

Page 286
If I don't exhaust my energy trying to control what I cannot I am left with more time to live as I choose.
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
No doubt a strong, passionate, adventurous woman. Any person who loves to paddle could find excitement in this book. At times, I found myself getting a bit annoyed by the tone of her voice. Her writing tries to convey a humble nature, but rather it comes across as better than thou.
Not overbearingly poetic or flowering yet the story somehow drips out of the page smoothly and settles over you like a nice warm wool blanket on a day that you are very grateful to not be out rowing in frigid, wave filled waters.
Marilyn Cook
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I have read. Well written, entertaining. A great read if you like the outdoors.
Katie Stein
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My mom loved real-life adventure stories (even though she was not an adventurer) and she definitely would have loved this book. I loved it, too. This memoir had a wonderful way of describing the very unique life the author had chosen and the amazing rowing trips around the Arctic she had taken without the focus being on her own amazingness. The focus was on the experience, the reflections and thoughts she had, the observations, the state of nature in the Arctic (Alaska, Canada, Norway and Greenl ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Evocative and inspiring. Jill Fredston writes with humor and insight, her descriptions do vivid you feel as if you are in the rowboat with her. I really enjoyed this book.
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, arctic, travel
Rowing to Latitude
By Jill Fredston
4 stars

I’m not a rower and truly, I’m not much of a water person. I can barely doggy paddle, but I picked up Jill Fredston’s Rowing to Latitude because my sense of adventure is easily satisfied by the turn of pages. I hoped for a book which would give me a peak at the Arctic and its animals without having to suffer its chill and biting winds. I was satisfied on that count as this description of her journey from Seattle to Skagway Alaska describes:

The sun r
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is phenomenal. Truly, a wondrous journey through space, time, love, life, and philosophy. Jill Fredston is not only a stupendous storyteller but also a deeply thoughtful woman, and her perspective on life comes across beautifully in her prose. This is a book to read with a pen - she shares some universal truths in words well-chosen and appropriate for a wide audience. Somehow, she manages to present her travels (and life) from both an intellectual and personal vantage point and deftly ...more
Cynthia F Davidson
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pi-book-club
I chose this for our island book club because we have sailors, kayakers & travelers in it. The author goes to Alaska (where she lives) to British Columbia, Greenland, Labrador, Norway, the Yukon River & many parts of the Bering Sea. She made me relieved to be an armchair traveler, when it comes to those parts of the globe!
An avalanche expert, with another book, 'Snowstruck' Jill is a serious outdoors woman & one heck of an athlete. I was tired just reading of how many miles she rowed each day o
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I picked 3 years AFTER leaving Anchorage to read this book - a memoir written by an Anchorage author. It describes rowing trips with her husband from Seattle to Nome, the Mackenzie River and along the Arctic coast of Alaska, Labrador, Greenland, Norway, Svalbard, and more. I relate to Jill's affinity for rowing, where the rhythm of the catch-pull-glide can make the oars and heart alike sing. I enjoyed Jill's writing style, which was first intended as a trip-log for herself and friends, full of i ...more
Cecelia Hightower
Written by Jill Fredston in 2001. Jill and her husband are avalanche experts and co-directors of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. They live outside Anchorage. According to Jill, she and her husband are such two different types of people that they would never be expected to get together. To me the book is written in the format that made me feel like I was sitting with he author, her husband and some friends and she was sharing stories with us.

Jill and her husband would take the summer months o
Nov 25, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is best appreciated by those who might have a similar attraction to wild country as does the author, Jill Fredston.

Often lyrical, always worshipful of the Arctic's Edge, Fredston's account of rowing feats along the coasts of Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Labrador will most resonate with those who've often dipped oars or paddles into the water themselves. Just when descriptions of the thousands of miles of shoreline threaten to slip into the mundane, Fredston introduces polar b
Bobo Johnson
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
If you considered rowing to be exclusively the domain of prep schools, this travelogue/autobiography will swiftly disabuse you of that notion. Jill Fredston says she didn't originally intend "Rowing to Latitude" to be a book, and in a lot of ways, it feels like a patchwork of emails from a distant friend doing something you would give anything to join her for.

Sprinkled throughout are moments of genius, and the language rarely if ever falls into the humdrum voice of most travel accounts. The boo
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports-adventure
Jill Fredston’s descriptions of nature are so beautiful it hurts. This book is slow, thoughtful, and carefully crafted. It describes several journeys in extreme North that Fredston took with her partner, focusing on descriptions of nature and the minutia of rowing through ice, as well as the emotional stamina this hardcore activity requires. The author of this book is a major badass, but she remains light and humble throughout the story. My two favourite highlights of the narration are encounter ...more
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
A friend gave me this book to read knowing I love to paddle and spent a lot of time doing so in SE Alaska. Well each singular trip documented in this book was a lot more than I could ever fathom doing and envied the months and months she could take away from real life to do it! The author did an amazing amount of rowing (not paddling) in artic waters and it's really inspiring. But after I got over the sheer strength, will, and determination it took the author and her husband to do the physical f ...more
Mikaela Stephenson
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jill Fredston and her husband Doug are very inspirational, driven individuals that have ventured on incredible journeys along innumerable coasts. Their stories are incredibly intriguing to read and there is so much information to be learned intertwined with the stories. Fredston is very knowledgeable about what she does, but sometimes it became a little too much for me. I am not an individual versed in rowing so simpler descriptions could have been helpful; however, as a winner of the National O ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love adventure travel books, and this one is one of the best I've read. It is a great combination of scenic descriptions, gripping narrative, human interest, and philosophical pondering. Jill Fredston and her husband Doug Fesler are the kind of people I admire, but in whose footsteps I'm unlikely to follow. So I limit myself to reading the stories of people like them. In their case, they divide their time between avalanche research and rescue in winter, and rowing northern latitudes in summer. ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by a woman at The Homer Bookstore, it was not a book I likely would have picked up on my own. This book was a reminder that we all need to lose ourselves in the wild places, to find space for people and love, and that adventure must be carefully measured among hazard and risk. Her travels say a great deal about the Alaskan spirit and is a reminder that my neighbors are often humble souls with extraordinary strength, courage, and unwavering determination. I can’t say enough good thing ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Well, I decided to give up about halfway through this book. I just think without the firsthand knowledge of the places Jill describes, I'm at a loss here. But I immediately was drawn into the concept of paddling alone with my Nayt. He would 100% ask me to do this with him, especially along the Arctic. And we laughed about the idea.

A good read, just not for me. I would prefer to meet Jill and hear her stories in person, I think.
May 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Any wilderness lover/ rower
Really enjoyed this book about rowing an ocean-going shell throughout the Arctic. To read the narrative about such awesome adventures was inspiring and got me fantasizing about my own dream wilderness trips.
Oct 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yes
Non-fiction account of a womans life rowing in the arctic seas....really! She has some amazing stories to tell. I was glad to read them because I will never be seeing for myself the remote areas she has experienced. A quick easy enjoyable read.
Oct 22, 2007 rated it liked it
..when you think you can't get to the gym, for whatever reason, pick this up and follow Jill through the arctic channels of Alaska by kayack, then you will surely be inspired, and it's cheaper than paying for an actual trip!
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommended. Jill Fredston writes wonderfully about wilderness, boat design, stubbornness, dealing with bears, personal relationships, and choosing to live one's life a different way. I'm not gonna go row around Spitsbergen now, but I found it inspring in other ways.
Joe White
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was a very good narrative of expedition rowing in far northern latitudes where there are several observations of environmental problems not usually discussed, and revelations about points of interest that just aren't in any normal travel itineraries.
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