Capturing a crucial moment in the history of exploration,
the mid-nineteenth century romance with the Arctic, Andrea Barrett focuses on a
particular expedition and its accompanying scholar-naturalist, Erasmus Darwin
Wells. Through his eyes, we meet the Narwhal’s crew and its
commander--obsessed with the search for an open polar sea—and encounter the far
north culture of the Esquimaux. In counterpoint, we see the women left behind
in Philadelphia, explorers only in imagination. Together, those who travel and
those who stay weave a web of myth and mystery. And they finally discover—as
all explorers do—not what was always there and never needed discovering, but
the state of their own souls.
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