Books·Canadian

Island of the Blue Foxes

Stephen Bown's book is an account of The Great Northern expedition that explored Siberia and Alaska during the early 1700s.

Stephen Bown

The Great Northern Expedition was the most ambitious and well-financed scientific expedition in history. Lasting nearly ten years and spanning three continents, its geographical, cartographical and natural history accomplishments are on par with James Cook's famous voyages, the scientific circumnavigations of Alessandro Malaspina and Louis Antoine de Bougainville and Lewis and Clark's cross-continental trek.

Conceived by Peter the Great in the 1730s and led by Danish mariner Vitus Bering, the enterprise involved a cavalcade of nearly three thousand scientists, secretaries, interpreters, artists, surveyors, naval officers, mariners, soldiers and labourers, along with tools, supplies, libraries and scientific implements.

Scientific objectives included investigating flora, fauna and minerals as well as outlandish rumours about the Siberian peoples. After the expedition reached the eastern coast of Asia, Bering oversaw the construction of two ships, the St. Peter and St. Paul, and sailed for America with 150 men.

The voyage was plagued by ill fortune — a supply ship failed to arrive, officers quarrelled and the ships were separated in a storm. While St. Paul reached Alaska and reported back to Russia, Bering's ship, St. Peter, was wrecked on a desolate island in the Aleutian Chain inhabited by feral foxes. Island of the Blue Foxes is an incredible true-life adventure story, a story of personal and cultural animosities, unimaginable Gothic horrors and ingenuity in the face of adversity. (From Douglas & McIntyre)