While reading Valerian Albanov's IN THE LAND OF WHITE DEATH David Roberts came across an old legend of four shipwrecked Russian sailors who had managed to survive for six years on Svalbard in the high Arctic. Incredulous, Roberts - an expert on exploration literature - determined to learn the truth about this astonishing story. This book is the result of that quest, a journey that took Roberts to libraries and archives on two continents and eventually to Russia and Svalbard itself. In 1743 a Russian ship bound for Arctic walrus-hunting grounds was wrecked by ice, stranding four of its crew - the only survivors - on a tiny island. With minimal provisions they endured six years of ice-bound hell: they collected driftwood for fires and with homemade lances killed ten polar bears (nine of which attacked them) for food. Concluding with Roberts' own four-man expedition to the desolate island where the ordeal took place, this riveting book explores more than just the struggle of men against nature - it ponders the genius of survival against impossible odds which turns a true story into a legend that, centuries later, still fires the imagination.
David Roberts is the author of a dozen previous books. His writings on the outdoors, adventure, and history have appeared in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, and THE SMITHSONIAN, among other publications. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.