Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings

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Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings

Jonathan Raban

Publisher: Vintage Books USA

Format: Paperback

The Inside Passage from Puget Sound to Alaska is turbulent and deep: an ancient, thousand-mile-long sea route rich in dangerous whirlpools, eddies, rips and races. Here flourished the canoe culture of the Northwest Indians, with their fantastic masks and painted boxes and their stories of malign submarine gods and monsters. Here in 1972, came the unhappy British ship Discovery, captained by George Vancouver. The early explorers were quickly followed by fur traders, settlers, missionaries, anthropologists, fishermen, and tourists, each with their own designs on this intricate and haunted sea.When Jonathan Raban set out alone in his own boat to sail from his Seattle home to the Alaskan Panhandle, he wanted to decode the many meanings of the sea — in Indian art and mythology, in the journals of Vancouver and his officers and midshipmen, in poetry and painting, in the physics of waves and turbulence. His voyage began as an intellectual adventure, but he soon found himself in deeper, more ominous personal waters than he had planned.“Passage to Juneau” is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, as Raban brings the past spectacularly alive and renders the present in prose of sustained brilliance and humor. Exhilarating, panoramic, full of ideas, natural history, and mordant social observation, his journey into the heart of the North American Wilderness turns into a profound reflection on the wilderness of the human heart.

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