American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mischief in Greenland

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  • Publication Year: 1965

Mischief in Greenland by H. W. Tilman. London: Hollis and Carter Ltd, 1964. 192 pages; 28 photos; 2 charts; 3 appendices. Price: 25 s.

This is the third book concerning voyages to remote mountain regions accessible by sea in the author’s old pilot cutter, Mischief (built in 1906). The sole purpose of these voyages, as Tilman explains it, was “to combine sailing with climbing, the obvious solution for a man who liked both and was reluctant to give up either.” Described here are two successive trips (both with a crew of 6), the first to the west coast of Greenland during May-September, 1961 and the second during the same period in 1962 to Exeter Sound of Baffin Island with secondary stops along the west coast of Greenland. It would appear that Tilman’s preference is more for the spartan life of long distance sailing as nearly 80% of the voyages is rather directly involved with survival at sea; meeting such problems as: dead-reckoning on reef and iceberg infested waters in dense fog, avoiding entrapment in ice floes and treacherous anchorages, and generally keeping the small 45-foot craft afloat and on course. On the first voyage, visits to Godthaab (Good Hope), the capital of West Greenland and Igdlorssuit, a native village farther up the coast, precede the mountaineering adventures that take place at the head of a spectacular fjord near Uminak. The mountains rise directly from the ocean to elevations of from 5000 to 7000 feet and glaciers flow into the sea. On the second voyage visits are made to the ports of Godthaab and Holsteinborg and some climbing is done near Sondre Stromfjord before sailing across Davis Strait to Exeter Sound and the ascent of Mount Raleigh.

The account is interesting, informative and well fortified with quotations from historical works as well as terse, whimsical one-line sayings, in the Tilman spirit, as fits the description at hand. There is an 8-page description of the body and soul of Mischief that is lacking neither in detail nor interest and it is indeed a pity that this colorful instrument of exploration had to be retired from long voyages in 1963.* The cause of science is served in a small way through botanical and zoological collections and the fact that two of the crew on the second voyage were enthusiastic “bird watchers” of some competence. The book is a pleasure to read.

Allen Steck

*She was withdrawn from retirement and crossed again to Greenland in 1964 — Editor.

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