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POLAR OPPOSITE OF SAFE; ARCTIC ADVENTURE LONELY, DARK, COLD.

Byline: Rich Martin Special to the Daily News

Some adventures are almost off the scale in daring. Magellan's and Lewis and Clark's voyages come to mind.

Alvah Simon's year in the Arctic, much of it alone, might not be in that class, but it's close. His experiences are chronicled in the well-written ``North to the Night'' (International Marine; $24.95). The reader is not sure whether to label him crazy or admire him for his resourcefulness and courage.

Simon and his wife sailed from South America to a spot near the North Pole, where the anchor was dropped while the sea wasn't frozen. There they spent months in the icy, dark wastes.

Later, Simon's wife flew to her parents' home in New Zealand to be with her terminally ill father. Determined to stay in the Arctic a full year, through a long period without daylight, Simon saw his adventure take a major turn. He suffered from recurrent debilitating back aches and temporary blindness, an affect of the continual darkness that made daily chores oppressive. Once he awakened in horror to find his legs frozen in ice from melted water.

Depression and acute anxiety attacks - common maladies on such solo adventures - plagued him. Long hikes relieved his dark moods; he was saved by his imagination, a special place to which his inner compass constantly pointed him.

In the narrative, Simon's experiences, inward and outward, are often dramatic. His reckless encounter with a polar bear is particularly telling. Apparently offering himself to fate, Simon decides his experience would not be complete without facing the largest land predator alone and unarmed. He lucks out and the bear goes his own way. But the author looks upon his fortune not as coincidence but a reflection of his basic harmony with the land . . . or something like that.

The descriptions of the long winter and the native Inuits in the 328 pages are compelling; the tale flags when Simon writes about some sort of spiritual awakening.

One can't help but wonder about individuals compelled to defy death. Should you pat someone like Simon on the back or recommend a good psychiatrist? What does the tendency toward extreme outdoor activities say about life in the modern world? Our rating: Two and One-Half Stars.

Fly-fishing is often seen as a mysterious activity, as difficult to master as nuclear physics. Peter Kaminsky succeeds in untangling its complexity in ``Fly Fishing for Dummies'' (IDG Books Worldwide; $19.95).

The 358-page book hooks the reader by taking a simple, step-by-step approach. Kaminsky, outdoor columnist for the New York Times, deals with each subject by offering tips that, yes, even fishing dummies can understand.

Men, for example, should not try to teach their girlfriends or wives how to fish. Sage advice. Also, not only sounds but shadows can warn fish of the angler's approach.

Along with recommendations for tackle, technique, safety and etiquette, the author includes an extensive glossary, most notably an additional-reading section of the best books and magazines on the subject. Our rating: Two and One-Half Stars.

Society typically frowns upon people owning bears, lions and other exotic animals as pets. Consequently, one of the best opportunities we might get to watch predators in action in a domestic setting is to have carnivorous plants.

Common belief suggest that such flora thrive mostly in faraway tropical climates and are difficult to care for. Not so, according to author Peter D'Amato in ``The Savage Garden'' (Ten Speed Press; $19.95). D'Amato's interest in carnivorous plants, or CPs as he calls them, blossomed in childhood when he discovered some grew near his New Jersey home. Today he has more than 500 species, most of which can grow in temperate climates and are low-maintenance.

D'Amato details such factors as soil, light, containers and feeding.

What will CPs eat? Mostly insects, but they have been known to devour frogs, lizards and even small rodents. D'Amato - who runs California Carnivores, a Forestville nursery billed as the home of the world's largest CP collection - has fed bits of hamburger, cheese and even chocolate to his plants.

The 314 pages of ``Savage Garden'' contain wonderful photos and detailed information on cultivation of many different species of CPs. Our rating: Two and One-Half Stars.

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PHOTO (Color) Books deal with flies, carnivorous plants and solitude in the snow.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review; SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 19, 1998
Words:725
Previous Article:OMINOUS BUT BEAUTIFUL TRAIL; CRAGS ARE STEEP, BUT RATTLESNAKE LOVELY FOR HIKES.
Next Article:WILDFOWLER GETS STAMP OF APPROVAL.


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