BOOK REVIEW

Polar Attack: from Canada to the North Pole and Back

No one has ever been able to duplicate the Henson & Peary round trip polar assault with dog sleds. Every modern team who have dared to attempt it have, at best, made 1/2 the journey (to the Pole, not round trip). All had to be picked up by aircraft. To this day Henson, Peary & their Inuit companion's feat still humbles even the modern snowmobile. However, there were two remarkable men, Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakhov, who walked to the North Pole without sled dogs and returned to land without any outside support. I could not believe it possible until I read their excellent book "Polar Attack."

Their adventures are truly good reading and will introduce you to the dangers of going to the North Pole. One danger is polar bears. When air pilots spotted bears stalking the trail of Richard and Malakhov they were alerted by satellite radio; their response to was to load bullets in their .357 magnum! As if freezing, starving, and drowning were not bad enough to fend off, you can also be eaten going to the Pole.

Unfortunately there is some bitterness in the end. Dismissed by the National Geographic Society they found themselves lacking the attention they felt they had earned. In a strange turn Weber added a section in which he expresses distain for the Peary legend. He goes too far and claims that Henson & Peary were "amateurs" with less experience on the ice (# of days) than he had. But one could easily point out that Weber is omitting the years of dog sledge experience across Greenland and other explorations. Also, it is obvious that his total number of days were stretched out by the slow progress made on foot and he counts one failed attempt that dragged on for weeks. That is experience? Dog sledging expert, Paul Landry, recently called Weber to task for this by pointing out that "Peary didn't ski!". (See NorthPole1909.com story by Shawn Ohler). I still felt Weber and Malakhov deserve praise.

Here is my review at Amazon.com:

These guys did the impossible as if it was their day job.

The North Pole is called "the place that wants you dead" for good reasons. Yet these two men are like the "Energizer Bunny" of Polar trekkers. They continued to walk for weeks, from drifting ice flow to ice flow, during the spring breakup while authorities wanted to declare them insane and force their air rescue. They resisted this by satellite radio, partially because they didn't want to pay the $100,000 cost! I am still stunned at the skill, determination and humor these guys displayed. They did what has always been considered impossible - but went about it like ordinary people who get up everyday and commute to work. They even referred to the ice as their "office" where they went to work every morning from their tent. The writing is very good, the achievement ranks as a worlds record, and the travelers are at peace with themselves and with life itself. They won my heart and my sincere admiration. It is a good read. "Polar Attack: from Canada to the North Pole and Back"

Copyrightę 1997, Bradley Robinson, www.matthewhenson.com