Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unwilling Adventure

After watching the movie North Face and beginning to read In the Land of White Death, I was struck by just how different these adventures are. In the movie, the climbers who attempt the face are considered to be in league with Olympic athletes. Not only do Kurz and Hinterstoisser undertake this adventure willingly, but they are also surrounded by supporters and tourists who become very invested in their actions. In stark contrast, Albanov chooses to begin his adventure narrative when he and others set out from the ship. Although Albanov and the others did willingly set sail on the ship, none of them anticipated having to journey under life-threatening conditions. No one knew that these men were about to set off on a life-threatening attempt to make it back home.
What is most interesting to me is where the book itself begins. It is as if Albanov does not consider the time on the ship itself an adventure. Only when the men decide to set off across the ice does the adventure begin. This again begs the question, "what makes an adventure?" For Kurz and Hinterstoisser, the adventure was created by putting themselves at risk to achieve greatness. For Albanov and the others who set out from the Saint Anna, the adventure was forced upon them when the ship became frozen in the ice and Albanov had to make survival choices. For Albanov, this is where the adventure begins: not on the ship, where he had planned to be, but in his journey across the ice, where he was forced to be.
As we try to define adventure, it is very interesting to compare the narratives that others have considered to be "adventures." The stories in the movie North Face and in the book In the Land of White Death are very different types of adventure.


  1. Although what I found quite interesting about the movie was that Toni Kurz was portrayed to be against climbing the Eiger from the get-go. This of course was at least partly a dramatic device, because it makes the tragedy even worse that Toni didn't want to be on the mountain in the first place and still had to sacrifice his life. But the movie presented a view we haven't really seen yet - a career adventurer with plenty of talent who DIDN'T want to climb a mountain for safety reasons. This is an interesting juxtaposition with the eager and fearless adventurer, the accidental but capable adventurer (Albanov), and the men who shouldn't have been anywhere near the wild places.

  2. I think that the choice to begin the narrative when the decision to leave the Saint Anna has been made highlights unpredictability and uncertainty as components of the definition of adventure. Being stuck on a boat in the middle of a flow, and being limited to the ship for an extended period of time pales in comparison with life trekking across the ice. In contrast with the monotony of life on the ship, the monotony of trekking across the ice day after day brings with it the challenges of constantly having to reevaluate navigation decisions, route find, hunt, and survive. I think that these unpredictable components of their journey make it one of the more adventuresome narratives that we have read.

    Also, I agree with your statement that the two stories you mention are both different types of adventure, rather than one being more of an adventure than another or calling one a survival story and one an adventure story.