Monday, March 31, 2014

The Driving Forces Behind Exploration

Although there are stark differences between the expeditions of mountaineers and maritime explorers, there are many commonalities that define their reasons for exploration. Early in the novel, The Voyage of the Narwhal, by Andrea Barrett, Zeke utters a statement that rings true with the mindset of every mountaineer we have read about so far: “How can anyone bear to live and die without accomplishing something remarkable?” (Barrett, 43). For Zeke, it was to make a successful attempt by sea on the North Pole. For mountaineers, such as Joe Simpson, Jon Krakauer, or even Sir Edmond Hillary, it was to make a first ascent of an unconquered summit. For all, the possibility of these accomplishments and the following recognition were the driving forces behind their expeditions. And the fact that all of these individuals were willing to risk their lives, and in Zeke’s case, the lives of his crew, in such extreme environments with such low odds of survival for the possibility of either public or personal glory bears strong testament to the influence of these driving forces on the mentalities and desires of all adventurers regardless of environment.


  1. I think this lust for the remarkable is definitely a common thread through all of the texts we have read. However, I also think that Barrett portrays the largest diversity of motives in any of the class' texts. Erasmus embarks on the voyage for many reasons, none of which are really for solely his own glory. He seeks to fuel his curiosity for the natural world, look out for the person whom his sister loves, and revisit the world of voyaging after a tumultuous history. Dr. Boerhaave admits that he has no interest in attaining fame. The rest of the crew (except maybe Ned) comes on the voyage for money, and are very ready to turn back early on. There is not a shared goal of a summit, as there was in many other readings.

  2. Reading this story, I had a hard time reconciling it with the adventure narratives we had previously read. As we discussed in class it was hard to see where the adventure truly begins. While this is clearly demonstrated in Erasmus’s repetitive statements about the adventures beginning, I felt like a large part of this came from the nature of their adventure. Where the other adventures are largely about testing your limits, this adventure is about going where man had not gone before. Both types of adventure are similar in that they revolve around firsts and detail an individual or group’s attempt to accomplish something remarkable.

  3. Reading your post made my think about the seamen (Fletcher Lamb, Sean Hamilton, etc) and their motivations for joining the expedition. They are there because "they needed work... not because they were inspired by the expedition's goals but because they'd needed jobs back in the spring, when Zeke was recruiting men. They'd signed on because the wages were good...". These men have little to no experience in the Arctic and are a part of the expedition purely for employment. As Caroline says, "there is not a shared goal of a summit" like we have seem in other books we've read this semester, and this demonstrates how different motivations can tear an expedition apart.