[PDF] ✈ Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage By Brian Castner – Writerscompany.co.uk

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage The Northwest Passage is a giant pain in the ass It s harsh and cold and the weather is entirely unforgiving it seems to drive people half mad.After learning that, it makes it all theimpressive that Alexander Mackenzie did it back in the late 1700s and that our author followed in his footstepsthan 200 years later It s an arduous journey that is characterized by a ton of hazards It was a surprisingly intense for being an historical narrative and a travel log I enjoyed learning mo The Northwest Passage is a giant pain in the ass It s harsh and cold and the weather is entirely unforgiving it seems to drive people half mad.After learning that, it makes it all theimpressive that Alexander Mackenzie did it back in the late 1700s and that our author followed in his footstepsthan 200 years later It s an arduous journey that is characterized by a ton of hazards It was a surprisingly intense for being an historical narrative and a travel log I enjoyed learningabout a part of North American history I had no idea even existed I received a free Kindle copy of Disappointment River by Brian Castner courtesy of Net Galley and Doubleday Books, the publisher It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the description sounded interesting a mix of history and a modern day reenactment This is the first book by Brian Castner tha I received a free Kindle copy of Disappointment River by Brian Castner courtesy of Net Galley and Doubleday Books, the publisher It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the description sounded interesting a mix of history and a modern day reenactment This is the first book by Brian Castner that I have read.I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it was less than stellar The premise of the book is Alexander MacKenzie s search for the Northwest Passage and the author s trip following Mackenzie s path The parts dealing with the history of MacKenzie s trip were the most enjoyable part of the book The author s modern day narrative I found to be rambling at times and his writing style made it hard to focus and enjoy the book It simply was not engaging.Some other early reviews have viewed the book differently, but my recommendation is to check it out from your local library before deciding to invest in a copy In , Alexander Mackenzie Traveled Miles On The Immense River In Canada That Now Bears His Name, In Search Of The Fabled Northwest Passage That Had Eluded Mariners For Hundreds Of Years In , The Acclaimed Memoirist Brian Castner Retraced Mackenzie S Route By Canoe In A Grueling Journey And Discovered The Passage He Could Not FindDisappointment River Is A Dual Historical Narrative And Travel Memoir That At Once Transports Readers Back To The Heroic Age Of North American Exploration And Places Them In A Still Rugged But Increasingly Fragile Arctic Wilderness In The Process Of Profound Alteration By The Dual Forces Of Globalization And Climate Change Fourteen Years Before Lewis And Clark, Mackenzie Set Off To Cross The Continent Of North America With A Team Of Voyageurs And Chipewyan Guides, To Find A Trade Route To The Riches Of The East What He Found Was A River That He Named Disappointment Mackenzie Died Thinking He Had Failed He Was WrongIn This Book, Brian Castner Not Only Retells The Story Of Mackenzie S Epic Voyages In Vivid Prose, He Personally Retraces His Travels, Battling Exhaustion, Exposure, Mosquitoes, White Water Rapids And The Threat Of Bears He Transports Readers To A World Rarely Glimpsed In The Media, Of Tar Sands, Thawing Permafrost, Remote Indigenous Villages And, At The End, A Wide Open Arctic Ocean That Could Become A Far Northern Mississippi Of Barges And Pipelines And Oil Money Interesting research, but clearly written for a macho male audience.See my other ten word book reviews at my blog tenwordbookreviews.wordpress.com Mackenzie traversed those waters via canoe, and so I planned the same My choice involvedthan historic homage it is the perfect slow vehicle to see the country In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie, a Scottish explorer, attempted to find the Northwest passage, traveling a grueling 1,100 hundred miles, on a ruthless river, through the Arctic wilderness His mission failed, as he was thwarted by an unforgiving ice pack In 2016, author and memoirist, Brian Castner, followed the explorer s route, Mackenzie traversed those waters via canoe, and so I planned the same My choice involvedthan historic homage it is the perfect slow vehicle to see the country In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie, a Scottish explorer, attempted to find the Northwest passage, traveling a grueling 1,100 hundred miles, on a ruthless river, through the Arctic wilderness His mission failed, as he was thwarted by an unforgiving ice pack In 2016, author and memoirist, Brian Castner, followed the explorer s route, on the Mackenzie River, aka, Disappointment River to see if he could succeed, where the Scottish man failed Castner presents the story as a dual narrative, reconstructing Mackenzie s trip, along with his own perilous adventures I enjoyed the historical element, although parts of it were a bit dry, but I really admired Castner s own documentation It was an incredibly difficult and harrowing trip This was part of North America, I knew very little about and found these discoveries fascinating Castner is a gifted writer and one tough son of a gun I did not realize, right away, that Castner wrote an excellent memoir, about his experiences as a Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, in Iraq, called The Long Walk , which I loved a few years back I also highly recommend that one Castner wove together a fascinating story of two 1,200 mile journeys by canoe down the Mackenzie River also known as the Deh Cho and Disappointment River in Canada s Northwest Territories.The first journey was undertaken in 1789 by a group of voyageurs fur trappers and indigenous guides, headed by Alexander Mackenzie The purpose of this expedition was to find a Northwest Passage waterway to the Pacific Ocean.The second journey was undertaken in 2016 by the author, Brian Castner, in a two ma Castner wove together a fascinating story of two 1,200 mile journeys by canoe down the Mackenzie River also known as the Deh Cho and Disappointment River in Canada s Northwest Territories.The first journey was undertaken in 1789 by a group of voyageurs fur trappers and indigenous guides, headed by Alexander Mackenzie The purpose of this expedition was to find a Northwest Passage waterway to the Pacific Ocean.The second journey was undertaken in 2016 by the author, Brian Castner, in a two man canoe, in which he enlisted four friends to help him paddle down the Mackenzie River in tag team fashion The purpose of Castner s expedition was to recreate Mackenzie s journey.This was a fascinating read as it was a travelogue tied in with a history of the development of the Northwest Territories and the search for the fabled Northwest Passage in order to expand the fur trade to China and Russia Castner did an excellent job of devoting two chapters one for the 1789 expedition and one for the 2016 expedition for each leg of the journey down the Mackenzie This method helped to tie the two journeys together It was interesting to see how the river and its inhabitants have changed or remained fairly stagnant through time.Castner is an excellent writer, and I would not hesitate to readof his books.I would especially like to acknowledge an appreciation for Castner s four friends who endured quite a lot of discomfort to help Castner fulfill this dream Everyone should have friends like these I appreciated the history lesson but something never quite gelled for me. In the late 18th Century, Alexander Mackenzie convinced his employer, the newly formed North West Company, that it should help fund his mission to find a northwest river passage to the northern ocean and China Alternating between this original story of exploration, and his own 21st Century effort to retrace Mackenzie s trek, Castner takes the reader on an exciting trip down North America s 2nd longest river system the Mackenzie River Along the way he tells the story of original disappointment In the late 18th Century, Alexander Mackenzie convinced his employer, the newly formed North West Company, that it should help fund his mission to find a northwest river passage to the northern ocean and China Alternating between this original story of exploration, and his own 21st Century effort to retrace Mackenzie s trek, Castner takes the reader on an exciting trip down North America s 2nd longest river system the Mackenzie River Along the way he tells the story of original disappointment when Mackenzie s crew found the sea iced over at the river s mouth, all the while he narrates his own voyage of discovery and wonder down the river by canoe, and the fact that today, the mouth of the Mackenzie dumps into a vast wilderness of open ocean that will turn into a new northwest passage Paddling the Deh Cho felt like walking a tightrope Don t look down, don t look around, don t think too much about what you are doing, don t think about being small and exposed, just put one foot in front of the other, paddle to the next point That s it If you pick your head up, look around, you ll realize how far from help you are, and the enormity of the task In 2016 author Brian Castner set out to retrace the route that Alexander Mackenzie took in 1789 in an attempt to reach the then fablPaddling the Deh Cho felt like walking a tightrope Don t look down, don t look around, don t think too much about what you are doing, don t think about being small and exposed, just put one foot in front of the other, paddle to the next point That s it If you pick your head up, look around, you ll realize how far from help you are, and the enormity of the task In 2016 author Brian Castner set out to retrace the route that Alexander Mackenzie took in 1789 in an attempt to reach the then fabled Northwest Passage For some time explorers had tried to find it, but without successIn 1775, after nearly three hundred years of European nautical failure, the British Parliament authorized the award of twenty thousand pounds to whoever could discover the Northwest PassageThis incentive plus the fact that traders wanted adirect route to China for their exports of beaver furs meant that this quest had become an imperative.1788 The Grand Portage, Lake SuperiorAt the rendezvous, the hommes du nord exchanged tens of thousands of beaver skins for the mangeurs du lard s iron trade goods from London, a swap permitted by the bitter snow driven land only once a yearEach year this massive trade fair was held, but at this particular rendezvous it was decided that Alexander Mackenzie would lead an expedition to once again try to find the elusive Northwest Passage Peter Pond, a prominent trader who had some spectacularly impressive furs had information from the Red Knife Indians about the existence of a very large riverIn 1787, Pond met two Indians who said they had traveled up a large river from the Pacific Ocean they bore English blankets from Captain Cook as proof It was the final piece of evidence Pond neededThe search was on, but it was Mackenzie and not Pond who would spearhead it.2016Brian Castner realised that he would need a paddling partner, butNo one had a whole summer to devote, so I came up with a plan to divide the trip into quarters, ask four friends to each join me on a leg they would be like runners in a relay race and pass me as the batonHis paddling partners were David Chrisinger, Jeremy Howard Beck, Landon Phillips, and Anthony SennhennWe paddled an eighteen and a half foot Sea Clipper canoe, wide and steady as the days, designed to track through whitecaps and swallow hundreds of pounds of gearMr Castneror less alternates between MacKenzie s experiences and his own He diverts to give us a condensed biography of Mackenzie who was born in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis His mother died when he was 12 years old, and the family left for the New World However,It was the spring of 1775, and when Alexander Mackenzie arrived in New York, he discovered that he had escaped the rural poverty of Scotland for a warMany Scots ended up in Montreal when the American Revolution turned pear shaped for the British, and young Alexander was one of these In Montreal he found a job counting beaver furs and thus he became involved in that industry In the course of his careerAlexander Mackenzie learned that the farther north one went, the farther west, the greater the trials, the greater the furs, the greater the legend upon returning homeand he became determined to find that fabled Northwest Passage.Mr Castner also backtracks to the war which started in 1754 to provide further backgroundIn Great Britain and France, it came to be known as the Seven Years War On the Indian subcontinent, it was the Third Carnatic War In Prussia, the Third Silesian War In South America, the Fantastic War In North America, in the colonies where Johnson fought, it was called the French and Indian WarHe also mentions Samuel de Champlain who founded the settlement which became Montreal, the earlier explorer Jacques Cartier, plus other explorers such as James Cook So there is a fair amount of history in this book but of course these aspects are not discussed in any depth as that is not the purpose here.Mackenzie travelled withAwgeenah, the English Chief, his Chipewyan partner in all things , and together they enlisted sometimes forcefully the help of other indigenous people along their way They did in fact find a massive river, the Deh Cho as it is known to the First Nation people, or the Mackenzie River as we now know it Unfortunately he did not realise that at some stage he had turned North, and so guess what, he ended up at the Arctic Ocean which was not exactly his goal, as he was meant to find a route to the Pacific Ocean However, months later he returned to Athabasca and, not being a quitter,So he decided to go to London to study cartography and to purchase the proper instruments, a sextant and chronometer and appropriate almanacsbefore once again setting out and this time finding the desired ocean After which he was duly honoured, f ted, and the vast river to the North was named after him even thoughFor him, he wrote, it was nothing but a voyage down the River DisappointmentMr Castner and his paddle partners canoed the length of the massive Deh Cho Mackenzie River closely following Mackenzie s initial attempt which ended at Garry Island, or Whale Island per Mackenzie.The MacKenzie DeltaattributionHere are some observations by the two sets of explorers, Mackenzie and Awgeenah in 1789, and Brian Castner and his rowing partners in 2016 MackenzieThere was a rhythm to these portages, Mackenzie saw As they worked their way north and west out of the Great Lakes, a simple pattern pervaded Fight a river up the granite, carry over the height of land, follow the rapids down to a mud lake, cross and follow the next stream upriver, until you find the granite again A water ladder, climbing up and down, to traverse the continent The water turned a shocking emerald green, the same green as the Niagara below the falls, and the rate of the current accelerated still further It bubbled and boiled, like the cooking pot of Macbeth s witches, and quickened still further, pushing them past high mud banks, until, all at once, the current and wind fled and their momentum faded Their guide knew that they were in a basin formed long ago by the tail slap of a giant beaver, when the animals could speak and wrecked the world But of this lake s nature, the consistency of its shore, its outlets and destinations, he could say nothing to Mackenzie and Awgeenah One waterfall came after another, until the Winnipeg River discharged into a lake of the same name For the first time since Lake Superior, the view expanded as the last basswood and maple trees fell away Instead, prairie hugged the shores Mackenzie marveled at herds of buffalo and saw so many animals, birds, and fish that he declared, There is not, perhaps, a finer country in the world for the residence of uncivilized man CastnerThe Slave River is immense, as wide as five normal rivers, and crisscrossed with pour overs and channels It reminded me of the rapids above Niagara Falls, but many times wider The Slave drains northern British Columbia, half of Alberta, and upper Saskatchewan, and the rapids at Fort Smith are formed where a northern quadrant of the Canadian Shield meets the tar sands Flocks of white pelicans, the northernmost breeding colony on the continent, perched on rocks or floated in eddies, serene among the boil Sand and granite, gulf coast seabirds amid black spruce, it was all juxtaposed and spectacular My mind reeled at the view Well, this is the Northwest Territories, John said This place, I thought, it s defined by the absence of humans So much space, but only forty thousand residents total That evening, we camped on the north shore, just past a few islands at Trail Creek It was July 1, and on the same night in 1789, Mackenzie persuaded Awgeenah to cache pemmican on those Trail Creek islands and then make camp For the first and only time, Mackenzie and I were sleeping on exactly the same rock on exactly the same day, united by both calendar and geography, precisely 227 years apart I knew it was likely I would see open water since 1980, summer pack ice in the Arctic is down 80 percent, as the whole region warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet but it was still unsettling, knowing how the ice completely shaped Mackenzie s experience I had only seen that single dirty lump just south of Tsiigehtchic, but for Mackenzie the ice was definitiveSays the authorAs often as possible, however, I will use the specific name of the indigenous group, using the historical name when appropriate for the setting Today we know them as the Inuit and Dene, but when speaking of the eighteenth century, as Alexander Mackenzie knew them, I will write Esquimaux, Dogrib, Slavey, Hare, depending on the nationIn addition to the details of the journeys in 1789 and 2016 there are several interesting tidbits of information, such as the fact that there was a mini ice age when Mackenzie travelled on that big river There are details about the voyageurs French Canadian boatmen their lifestyle, their food and their songs During their travels George Washington was inaugurated as President, and whilst Mackenzie and his fellow travellers were on Whale Island, the Bastille was stormed in France I love that type of comparison Brian Castner describes how green the Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River are However, from Fort Simpson the river is bright green on one side and a chocolate coloured smoothie on the other Check it out on Google Earth you ll see what he means Marco Polo Columbus Magellan Henry Hudson Captain Cook Alexander Mackenzie Lewis Clark.Mackenzie We know the names of the great explorers for both good and bad with one big exception Alexander Mackenzie I had read something about him as a kid and was fascinated by his story Finally,with Castner s book published in 2018, we have the complete story of his life and his epic journey in 1789 across a vast almost completely uninhabited land which today is called the Northwest Terri Marco Polo Columbus Magellan Henry Hudson Captain Cook Alexander Mackenzie Lewis Clark.Mackenzie We know the names of the great explorers for both good and bad with one big exception Alexander Mackenzie I had read something about him as a kid and was fascinated by his story Finally,with Castner s book published in 2018, we have the complete story of his life and his epic journey in 1789 across a vast almost completely uninhabited land which today is called the Northwest Territories Not only does Brian Caster write about the intrepid Scotsman and his journey, but he retraces his 1,200 mile long voyage by canoe up the river which now bears his name So we follow two adventures, both of which could easily have ended in disaster But I have to ask the question why isn t Mackenzie better known I think the simplest reason is that he was considered a failure by himself as well as by others His overriding goal was to travel on a major river which he hoped would flow west to the Pacific through present day Alaska This would have been the long sought for Northwest Passage, a shortcut through the Americas to the riches of China Instead, Mackenzie s following the great river out of the Great Slave Lake kept taking him ever northward until he reached the frozen Arctic Ocean And there was no passage to be found out of there But, as Castner points out, the supreme irony is that if Mackenzie had done this trip 200 years later, he would have found an ocean becoming increasingly ice free so that the great dream of the Northwest Passage could finally be realized


About the Author: Brian Castner

Brian Castner is a nonfiction writer, former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, and veteran of the Iraq War He is the author of Disappointment River, All the Ways We Kill and Die and the war memoir The Long Walk, which was adapted into an opera and named a New York Times Editor s Pick and anBest Book His journalism and essays have appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Esquire, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and on National Public Radio He is the co editor of The Road Ahead, a collection of short stories featuring veteran writers, and has twice received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, to cover the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014, and to paddle the 1200 mile Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 2016.


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