Book Review: “The Magnetic North – Notes from the Arctic Circle” (by Sara Wheeler)

Daily Telegraph (UK) – Sara Wheeler’s sympathies have always been with the south. The author of Cherry, a Life of the explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard and the bestselling Terra Incognita was unashamedly biased in favour of the glorious wastes of Antarctica, and against the “complicated” Arctic. She liked the white wilderness of the area around the South Pole; the north she found worrying. After all, it’s not just chill and wildlife in the Arctic Circle; there is mess, politics and people.

Her concern was justified. To write The Magnetic North Wheeler spent two years travelling around the five countries that poke up beyond the 66 degree line. Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and Russia all have their own vast, Arctic territories. And in those vast, Arctic territories lurk some very big personalities. Sarah Palin is in her Alaskan kitchen, looking with narrowed eyes at the Russians across the ice. Roman Abramovich, attracted by the tax laws, registers his companies in Russian Chukotka (and all the grateful Chukchi support Chelsea). Oleg Deripaska – a long way from yachts and cobalt seas – is a big noise in the Norilsk nickel industry.

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