Books: The Man Who Ate His Boots

If at first you don’t succeed...

Feb 17, 2010
Outside Magazine
The Man Who Ate His Boots

When not busy trying to colonize the Eastern Hemisphere, the Royal Navy spent most of the 19th century attempting to shave 6,000 miles off the trip to Asia, by way of North America. Anthony Brandt chronicles that frostbitten and futile era in The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage (Knopf, $29). None of the 40-odd expeditions the British launched actually sailed the passage; that honor went to Norway's Roald Amundsen, in 1903, eight years before he also beat the Brits to the South Pole. Though dense, The Man Who Ate His Boots also uncovers the period's quirkier moments—such as when an admiral enlisted the ghost of his psychic daughter to locate an 1845 expedition.

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