The Story

The Impossible Rescue is a book that tells the story of an epic rescue mission that took place along the Alaskan shores in the late 1800's.  

After a plentiful whaling season, it was time for all nine ships to return home in San Francisco.  However, the ice came very quickly and happened to trap all ships except for one, the Alexander.  Benjamin Tilton, who is the captain of the Alexander, steered his ship toward land and immediately reached out for help to rescue the other 200+ wheelmen stuck at sea.  Three men heard the news about the stuck ships and decided that they would take charge of the rescue mission.  The three men were Second Lieutenant Ellsworth Bertholf, Dr. Samuel Call, and First Lieutenant David Jarvis. These three men and a small crew quickly boarded an ice breaker ship known as The Bear.  The Bear left in early October to head toward Point Barrow where all the whale men were, but the climate was so cold that ice had already began to form in the nearby seas.  Because of the immense amounts of ice blocking the path to Point Barrow, The Bear dropped off Bertholf, Call, and Jarvis at the most southern point of the Alaskan coast.  It was Jarvis (the designated leader) and these two other men's jobs to track a 1,500 mile foot journey on thick ice and snow so that they could rescue the whale men before they would run short of food supply.  The three men began their journey with just dogs and sleds; however, as their long journey progressed, they met some indigneous people who allowed the three men to take roughly 200 reindeer (only a few to pull sleds while the others would come to bring food and other supplies).  The indigenous people were a great benefit to these three men. After roughly a six month journey, the three men reach a very small village/camp site, which the indigenous people built for the whalers.  The three men were only a couple of miles from Point Barrow when they reached this site, but no one had been to the abandoned ships yet.  No one knew if the ships had survived the ice, and furthermore, no one knew if anyone had survived.  It was up for Jarvis and his men to find out.

My Opinion

The book was an easy read.  I enjoyed looking at pictures on each page and seeing pictures of the people involved so that I could get a better picture of what the people involved looked like.  I also enjoyed the many pictures of the setting.  They allowed me to see the vast ice lands and the vast land distances, which adds emphasis to the drama of the story.  Overall, I thought the book was okay. It is clear that the writer wanted to tell the story with complete truth, so it seemed to come off kind of boring and dragged out.  I think the story itself is neat.  I've never heard of this arctic adventure, but it sure seems like it was a big deal especially for the time period these people were in... which makes it interesting because this event slowly sparked the development of the National Coast Guard.  I admire the heroism that takes place in this book, but I wish there was more action to make the story more telling and interesting.

Pictures/Quotes from the Book

"The expedition found that traveling along the Arctic shoreline was particularly difficult.  The terrain was a combination of bare, brought gravel where the snow had worn away, thick chunks of ice, and snow that had slid down from the mountains."

"The rugged terrain that Jarvis and his companions encountered on their journey was hard not only on the men and dogs, but on the sleds as well.  More than once, the trek had to be halted while repairs were made."

"The villages that Jarvis and his party passed by on their way to Kotzebue Sound were the poorest the lieutenant had encountered on his entire journey.  Not only were there no dogs to be had, but there was also no chance of obtaining any food for himself or his hungry companions."

"Jarvis's trip from Port Clearance to Tom Lopp's reindeer station confirmed the fact that even the shortest distances on the rescue expedition's journey were filled with their own particular challenges."

Relation to ESS

This book is pretty hard to relate to science because the focus of the book is around a story, not science... But there are some things that can relate to science:

- the extremely fast growth of ice in the sea waters (due to freezing arctic air that came in earlier than expected).  This is all related to earth's climatic change and the change in winds

- the rocky terrain comes from deposition of sediments OR by erosion caused by the melting of ice and snow

- the mountains are formed from the collision of tectonic plates OR by the grinding of fault plates OR by erosion

- the three men were given roughly 200 reindeer to begin with, but at the end of their mission they had 390 because the reindeer reproduced