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The Sun Is a Compass

A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


For fans of Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist's human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure.

During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.

In March of 2012 she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace -- migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou, and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences.
A unique blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative, the book explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of creatures whose daily survival is nothing short of miraculous. It is a journey through the heart, the mind, and some of the wildest places left in North America.

In the end, The Sun Is a Compass is a love letter to nature, an inspiring story of endurance, and a beautifully written testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 22, 2018 – In undertaking an epic trek from the Pacific Northwest to the Alaskan Arctic, Van Hemert, a wildlife biologist, and her husband encountered both the grandeur and danger of some of the planet's wildest locations. She vividly renders the experience, including being stalked by a black bear in the Brooks Range, initially visible only as "deep-set eyes, a pointed nose, and cinnamon-colored fur"; fighting the elements in a homemade rowboat off Vancouver Island; capsizing a raft in the Arctic Ocean; and coming under relentless attack for days by thousands of mosquitos in the Mackenzie Delta. Similarly, descriptions of witnessing a huge herd of caribou crossing Alaska's Noatak River and of being followed in the Arctic Ocean by two huge moose, "large, brown noses stirring the surface of the water as they stare blankly ahead," capture the magnificence of untamed nature. Van Hemert proves equally adept at exploring the inner dialogue that accompanied the harrowing physical feats, touching on love and loss, new parenthood, and the struggle to combine her passions for scientific inquiry and adventure. She leaves nature lovers with a story of adventure, of environmental awareness, and of personal discovery worth savoring.
The Sun Is a Compass
View in iTunes
  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Mar 19, 2019
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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