Saturday, September 22, 2018

Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams

Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams was a excellent travelogue book with the subtitle My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier, which provides any enjoyable retracing of an 1899 expedition led by railroad magnate Edward Harriman, historian C. Hart Merriam, and John Muir.

Adams in the book alternated between chapters on the original voyage and his own and at first traveled on the Alaska Marine Highway System of ferries, beginning in Bellingham, WA and then up through Southeast Alaska, with stops including Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, Whittier, Skagway, Haines, Sitka, and Gustavus, with that a jumping off point to Glacier Bay, in which Adams went on a vividly described overnight kayaking trip.

Also fascinating from this portion of the book was description of Lituya Bay, a fjord seven miles long, two miles wide, with sides that rise more than 6,000 feet, and which had an earthquake/landslide-triggered 1,700 foot high tsunami sweep through in in 1958, killing several, but also leaving a few survivors who recounted the experience.

After journeying through Southeast Alaska, Adams went to Kodiak, and made a subsequent stop in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park, an area formed out of a 1912 eruption of Mount Katmai that went on for three days, ejecting 30 times the volume of the 1980 Mount St. Helens blast. He concluded the trip by going through the Aleutian Islands, bypassing the portion of the Harriman expedition where they went across to Siberia and stayed for two hours, and then flew to Nome and also visited Shishmaref, a village just north of there gravely threatened by climate change.

The book was an entertaining and interesting one, with the original expedition providing both a blueprint and historical context for the modern-day adventures described.