Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book review: "Two Against the Ice" by Ejnar Mikkelsen

"Two Against the Ice" is the story of how Danish explorers Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iver Iversen struggled to survive while alone on the bleak and frozen northeast coast of Greenland from 1910 to 1913.

Their demonstration of will and endurance in the face of severe hunger, freezing temperatures and extreme fatigue is a quite an achievement.

The book, frankly, isn't as good as their achievement, giving us too much information on some things and too little on others. Still, if you're a survival story buff, it's worth a read, if only because Mikkelsen and Iversen come off as likeable chaps that are worth rooting for.

Mikkelsen, at times, can be almost poetic as he describes the vast wilderness he and Iversen surveyed.

"Whipping up the dogs, we drove down towards the gorge through which we had just come and halted spell bound: the sun was standing right above a dip in the ice, and its rays were pouring in between the tall ice-cliffs straight towards us. There was sparkling and glittering on the mirror-smooth, crystal-clear banks, the ice crystals which as numerous as the sands of the sea, caught the sun's rays and reflected them in condensed, blazing splendor. Wherever we looked was the flash and sparkle of light and colour; it was like a fantastically lavish firework display, something out of the Arabian Nights."

Still, at other times, the author leaves out simple storytelling facts. For example, it's unclear how many men are involved in the first sled journey of the book until the trip is over. Later, Mikkelson and Iverson seem to easily find the body of a member of a previous expedition, but the author doesn't explain how they knew where to look.

As impressive as Mikkleson and Iverson's ability to survive is, their ordeal has certain monotony for the reader: Hunger, cold, fatigue. Hunger, cold, fatigue. Repeat. There are not many surprises. Feel free to skim ahead.

But it's still interesting to read of a place and a time as empty and desolate as this when there were still truly unexplored parts of the Earth.

In many ways the book is a testament to friendship, as Mikkeson and Iverson grow increasingly dependent on each other. The fear that one of them might die is overwhelming to them, not simply for the fact that it would make it harder to survive, but because of the fact that the survivor would be left utterly alone in a desolate landscape.

 (Please support this blog by clicking on an ad, or by donating via the Paypal button below.)

No comments:

Post a Comment