Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

Rachel Slade at the NYT:

Stories of Arctic expeditions continue to fascinate us because they expose humanity in extremis — people pushed to their best and worst by hypothermia, hunger and despair. Sir John Franklin’s 1845 Arctic expedition to find a northwest passage became the shame of Britain when it was discovered that his men, trapped for months in Canada, resorted to cannibalism. Ernest Shackleton is a hero for rescuing all but three of his crew in Antarctica after his ship, the Endurance, was lost.

The challenges Barents faced are similarly elemental. Tacking against an Arctic wind between towering icebergs while feeling one’s way through uncharted waters is a profoundly nerve-racking task, and Barents’s men did it day and night for weeks on end, fighting fatigue, scurvy, boredom and loneliness. The 11 months they spent huddled in the dark in a windowless makeshift cabin, slowly starving to death, makes quarantining during the pandemic seem like an endless spa day.

more here.