Monday, April 7, 2014

What is an Adventure?

Reading In The Land Of White Death, I found myself trying to define what is necessary for something to be an adventure.  I have no doubt in my mind that those trekking south from the Saint Anna in search of land are on an adventure. Their journey is long and dangerous. When they left the Saint Anna there was uncertainty about whether or not they would ever find land.  They faced numerous difficulties along the way.  Finally, their journey was extremely long. Considering those still left on the ship, they are on a very different adventure, one whose primary threat was duration. They did not face the same types of challenges as those hiking.  They had shelter, and ample supplies for the short term. Danger only arose if the ship was unable to get free when the ice melted in nearly a year.  However this also made me think about other adventures. Are things like skydiving, or big wave surfing adventures, or are they merely stunts. Do adventures require an extended time frame?  According to Merriam-Webster, adventure is “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” However this still leaves the question of time scale up for negotiation. In considering my own ideas of an adventure, I can agree with the requirement of danger and unknown risk. I also like the idea of an undertaking where outcome is unknown. However, I feel that there is a difference between a dangerous activity and an adventure.  For me this difference centers on time frame. I feel that adventure requires the activity take a substantial or notable length of time.  However, this is an imperfect definition.


  1. Mike -- I also was thinking about how the time-frame impacts the adventure as I was reading. I thought that perhaps the lengthiness of arctic voyages is what makes it harder to see them as thrilling adventures because in order to understand them we need to understand hundreds of days which may be tedious to a reader. In contrast, the vertical adventures we've been reading about could be a day long, a week long, maybe even a month or two, but the book spanning over the period of a few years? No way. Maybe the fact that all of this hardship and extremity is packed into a short period of time makes it feel more extreme, but slow starvation, months of being stuck in ice-- while extreme, not dramatic. I think time frame's definitely affect how we perceive the adventure.

  2. I agree, the time frame of an adventure definitely affects how we perceive it. However, I don't know if it makes the adventure any less of an adventure. Although not as action packed and filled with life and death tension as Touching the Void is, in the Land of White Death is every bit an adventure as Touching the Void, just over a longer period of time. Both have unknown dangers and risks people are forced to face. And in my definition of an adventure, people transform as a result of their journey or ordeal, which is certainly the case in both narratives. Thus, although the length of time may change how the adventure is perceived, perception isn't everything. An adventure is an adventure, no matter if it takes place over a weekend or over a year, as long as it is dangerous, risky, and transformative.