Under the Midnight Sun: The Ascent of John Denver Peak and the Search for the Northernmost Point of Land on Earth. John Jancik, Steve Gardiner, Javana M. Richardson. Colorado: Stars End Creations, 2003. 200 pages, 126 color photos, 4 BW photos. $29.95.
Under the Midnight Sun chronicles two expeditions by largely identical teams to find the northernmost point of land in the world and to summit unclimbed peaks in North Peary Land at the northern tip of Greenland.
The 1996 expedition sought to cross the undulating sea ice on foot and reach Oodaaq Island, a small island about 2.3 miles north of the coast believed to be the northernmost point of land in the world. Though it sounds like an easy enough proposition, Oodaaq is a 2,600-square-foot island only three feet above the mean sea level. It is easily lost among the pack ice’s pressure ridges of greater height. The converging longitudinal lines this far north play with the accuracy of GPS units, making their search for a minuscule island a formidable challenge.
After one failed attempt and a 16-hour search, the group finds a small rock jutting above the flooded sea ice—Oodaaq Island, or so they think. Only as the group is about to fly in for their 2001 expedition do they learn from the Danish Polar Center that they missed Oodaaq, but found a new northernmost point of land: Top of the World Island.
Under the Midnight Sun captures the raw passion of pioneering exploration by selfdescribed “ordinary people.” While the excitement readily shows through, the book is often a cumbersome read. Three separate authors, combined with lengthy quotations from other party members, make it hard to follow the storyline. Quotes and situations repeat, and the reader often bounces between narration of unfolding events, stories about motivational moments prior to the expedition, poetry, and song lyrics. A thorough editing would cut out the extraneous clutter, leaving the kernel of explorations that is well worth reading.
Lloyd Athearn, AAC