Nov 17, 2008

The Iceberg Hermit

by Arthur Roth

About two hundred and fifty years ago, a young man named Allan Gordon quit his job as assistant in a tailor's shop and left Aberdeen, Scotland to go on a whaling voyage. He went on a few voyages, first as cabin boy then working as a sailor on the Anne Forbes, before the fateful accident in 1757. Allan was only seventeen when the ship struck an iceberg in the Arctic and overturned, becoming frozen into the ice. Allan was the only survivor.

He faced freezing temperatures, injuries, starvation and overwhelming loneliness. The mental strain alone must have been incredible, and several times Allan almost lost his will to continue struggling to live. When he adopted an orphaned polar bear cub (having killed its mother for meat), caring for it gave him a feeling of purpose and companionship. Resourceful and determined, Allan shouldered aside his fears and found ways to survive on his floating iceberg prison. After several years the iceberg finally neared land and Allan began trekking across the frozen landscape. He encountered a tribe of Eskimos who he thought were descendents of Vikings, and lived with them for some time. Seven years after disappearance of the Anne Forbes, Allan Gordon finally returned to Aberdeen. Hardly anyone believed his story. Many of the details Allan gave of his experience contradicted popular beliefs of the time about the Arctic. Yet as the author points out in his final chapter, when more was learned about those regions, a lot of the things Allan described were later proven to be quite possibly true.

Based on a true incident, The Iceberg Hermit is a fine adventure story describing survival against all odds, the growth of a young man into adulthood, and the friendship of a tame polar bear. The writing is more often than not simple, and I do wish more time had been spend describing Allan's period with the Eskimos (most of it is about the time on the iceberg) but it's a pretty good book.

Rating: 3/5                     219 pages, 1974


  1. That's the kind of story my son and I would have loved, a few years back. He's moved on to Tom Clancy and Dale Brown, though. Sigh.

  2. is a grate book that I have read many times.


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