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Historical Atlas of the Arctic

by Derek Hayes

Geologist, author, and map collector Derek Hayes is back with another in his stunning series of historical atlases. Having covered the North Pacific Ocean, B.C., and Canada in previous atlases, Hayes brings his formidable knowledge of cartography to one of the final geographical zones to be mapped: the Arctic. The maps collected in Historical Atlas of the Arctic range from the beautiful to the bizarre, including an illustration that shows the North Pole as a conical magnet floating in an open polar sea (it was believed that the 24 hours of daylight during Arctic summers kept the waters at the Pole from freezing).

The earliest maps reveal just how little Europeans knew about the vast unexplored regions of the North – and how much they were willing to fill in those empty spaces with their own speculations. What everyone seemed to agree on was the existence of an oversea route to the rich markets of Cathay, and that anyone who could claim that route for their country would become a very rich man. Thus began a series of often spectacularly bungled voyages to find the fabled Northwest Passage. North American readers more familiar with the voyages of Martin Frobisher and Henry Hudson may be surprised to learn that an equally fervent search for another passage was attempted through the seas north of Siberia, with as little success.

Hayes’ accompanying text and detailed captions provide a pithy summary of these and other map-making expeditions and the historical and personal forces that compelled them. The maps and illustrations are simply a joy to peruse and are cited throughout the text for easy cross-referencing.