Monday, April 7, 2014

Navigating the Unnavigable

         Although every adventure story we have read has its own trials and tribulations that push the adventurers to the limit, the adventure that the men of Albanov’s, In the Land of White Death, suffer through presents a very different kind of difficulty; one that is more mentally taxing than physically. In every other novel or story we have read, the adventurers have trails or landmarks to guide them, but in Albanov’s, In the Land of White Death, the adventurers out on the Arctic sea ice have nothing except an adequate knowledge of their orientation and position and a relatively poor knowledge of the presence of nearby landmasses. Even with that information, they are for all practical purposes completely lost in a trackless, white wilderness. In these conditions, adventurers are working against the clock because food supplies are limited and conditions are very adverse and can quickly become lethal. In addition to the physical battle with the environment and the mental struggle of forcing one’s self to soldier on without any evidence that one’s efforts are not in vain, there is also the challenge that the ice is a constantly changing and moving environment. It is this nature of the Arctic sea ice that renders the ice flows as one of the most dangerous and challenging of terrains and one of the most frustrating. This is most evident in In the Land of White Death when Albanov realized that if the ice flows pushed him and his men too far to the southwest, a possibility that was entirely out of his control, he would miss the Franz Josef Archipelago and be pushed into the frozen sea between that land mass and Svalbard where death would almost be certain. In other stories we have read, such as the stories about mountaineering, the possibility of death was almost equally the result of a mistake as of environmental conditions. However, in Albanov’s, In the Land of White Death, the moving sea ice is the governing force behind mortality because given the variability of sea currents, one’s survival is completely out of one’s control. Consequently, the Arctic sea ice is an environment that tests the metal of an adventurer’s mental stamina to the limit because success is never certain and the only reasonable action is to persevere and endure.

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