First hand accounts of Arctic adventures can sometimes be a bit tedious to slog your way though. Not this one. Its brisk pace will keep you on the edge of your seat for the duration. And best of all, the writer possessed a natural gift for written expression. To me, anyways, it comes as no surprise that someone with a name like Valerian Albanov could be anything less than a skilled and daring writer/adventurer.
In 1912, the Saint Anna, a Russian exploration vessel in search of fertile hunting grounds, was frozen into the polar ice cap, trapping her crew aboard. For nearly a year and a half, they struggled to stay alive. As all hope of rescue faded, they realized their best chance of survival might be to set out on foot, across hundreds of miles of desolate ice, with their lifeboats dragged behind them on sledges, in hope of reaching safety. Twenty of them chose to stay aboard; thirteen began the trek; of them all, only two survived.
Originally published in Russia in 1917, In the Land of White Death was translated into English for the first time by the Modern Library to widespread critical acclaim. As well as recounting Albanov’s vivid, first-person account of his ninety-day ordeal over 235 miles of frozen sea, this expanded paperback edition contains three newly discovered photographs and an extensive new Epilogue by David Roberts based on the never-before-published diary of Albanov’s only fellow survivor, Alexander Konrad. As gripping as Albanov’s own tale, the Epilogue sheds new light on the tragic events of 1912–1914, brings to life many of those who perished (including the infamous captain Brusilov and nurse Zhdanko, the only woman on board), and, inadvertently, reveals one new piece of information—about the identity of the traitors who left Albanov for dead—that is absolutely shocking.
“Poetic.”—The Washington Post • “A lost masterpiece.”—Booklist • “A jewel of polar literature.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer • “Vivid . . . [a work of] terrifying beauty.”—The Boston Globe
About the Author
Valerian Albanov was born in 1881 in Voronezh, Russia, and graduated in 1904 from the Naval College of St. Petersburg. Despite his harrowing voyage aboard the Saint Anna, he continued going to sea until his death in 1919.
Jon Krakauer is the bestselling author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.
David Roberts is the author of over a dozen books on mountaineering, exploration, and archaeology, including, most recently, True Summit. His work regularly appears in National Geographic Adventure, Smithsonian, and Outside, among other publications.
"A beguiling and valuable record of polar exploration before the planes landed, and a miraculous testament to what the human spirit can achieve. Albanov's harrowing story is a welcome addition to the canon of polar literature." -Sara Wheeler, author of Terra Incognita