North to the Night: A Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic

In June 1994 Alvah Simon and his wife, Diana, set off in their 36-foot sailboat to explore the hauntingly beautiful world of icebergs, tundra, and fjords lying high above the Arctic Circle. Four months later, unexpected events would trap Simon alone on his boat, frozen in ice 100 miles from the nearest settlement, with the long polar night stretching into darkness for months to come.

With his world circumscribed by screaming blizzards and marauding polar bears and his only companion a kitten named Halifax, Simon withstands months of crushing loneliness, sudden blindness, and private demons. Trapped in a boat buried beneath the drifting snow, he struggles through the perpetual darkness toward a spiritual awakening and an understanding of the forces that conspired to bring him there. He emerges five months later a transformed man.

Simon’s powerful, triumphant story combines the suspense of Into Thin Air with a crystalline, lyrical prose to explore the hypnotic draw of one of earth’s deepest and most dangerous wildernesses.

Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076790446X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767904469
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
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6 thoughts on “North to the Night: A Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic”

  1. In 1994-95 the author, his wife Diana, and their cat named Halifax, sailed to the Arctic in their 36-foot cutter, the Roger Henry, for an arctic experience. They spent a year in Baffin Bay, off the coast of Greenland, completely frozen in during the winter. His excellent writing is full of facts, from the mechanical details of getting making their boat seaworthy, to the history, geography, wildlife and interactions with the Intuit people.
    Beyond that, though, there was something more. The challenges he faces are stark and realistic and he makes mistakes along the way nearly costing him his life, grappling with internal challenges as well as external ones. Along the way he learns great lessons in life.
    As I read this book, I was right there with him, feeling his awe at the natural beauty, his thrill of the adventure as well as his loneliness and his fear. I was also constantly impressed by his ingenuity in solving the many constant technical unforeseen problems.
    I couldn’t put the book down, staying up almost all night to just keep reading and reading. I know I’ll never take a trip like this. But I thank him for writing the book and giving me the privilege of experiencing just a little bit of this wild and frozen landscape.
    Highly recommended.

  2. “North to the Night” would be a great true adventure story even if it were written only as a mere chronology of a fantastic trip to the high arctic. It is more than that. Fortunately, the author saw fit to weave the story of his own intra and interpersonal “voyages” into the narrative itself. For those, unfortunately, who are unable to indentify with his virtual despair on returning to “civiization” after thirteen years of sailing adventures or his obsession to spend a year virtually alone in the high artic, such intimate personal discussions might seem bizarre or self-serving. I found it all fascinating. So, too, with his discussions of the Inuit and the Arctic environment itself. Sensitive, insightful and, like the book as a whole, beautifully written. I have for years been a fan of sailing adventure stories and have read many. This is one of the best. I only hope his next book is not too far off.

  3. What a read this book turned out to be. If you enjoyed “Into Thin Air”, you’ll like this one. Much like “Into Thin Air” it’s the story of a man who’s spirit of adventure almost gets the best of him, as he sets off to explore and experience a world once unknown to him on his own. As his journey progresses he begins to realize that as much as he’d like to think he’s in control, there is a higher power that seems to be watching over him and keeping him safe. What I enjoyed most about the book were the pictures in my mind I was creating as Alvah was describing them in print: the giant ice-bergs, the polar bears, night that streched on for months and the reapperance of the sun. It was fun to read and really was an interesting way to learn about a part of the world (and the people that live there) that I really hadn’t read much about.

  4. As a sailor who reads a lot of sailing naratives, this one is great! Highly recommend it. Simon is insightful, and honest. There were several times in the book that Simon started to sound like a single-minded egotist, but in his story he keeps redeeming himself with renewed humility and insight. Through circumstance, he is forced to go into the shadow and face the great nemisis of humnankind, fear. We all deal with our fear through a combination of avoidance, denial, and confrontation. But in the extreme cold and dark of the north, Simon has no choice but to meet his fear, entertain it, live day-to-day with it, alone, until at last he recognizes that he can let go….and he does. Coming to trust in something larger than the extremes of the north, the brutality of the cold…he sees the freedom of simply recognizing the beauty of what is in this moment.

  5. Undoubtedly one of THE best books I’ve read in my 30+ years – Alvah Simon paints a brilliant, raw picture of adventure and challenge in the grip of the Arctic. His storytelling is as riveting as his story, and I sacrificed many many things for reading time with him.

  6. There is no doubt that Alvah Simon is a gifted, driven, and highly unusual individual. By embarking upon his “Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic” he tested the strength of his boat (the Roger Henry), his love (Diana Simon), and his mind. By writing about it he has allowed us cold-fearing readers to live through the short days and long nights of the North.
    In sum, his story is a captivating one. You definitely become attached to Alvah, but that doesn’t always mean that you like him. Frequently, the author is condescending, unwilling to compromise, cheesy, and generally unpleasant. But through it all, he does remain honest – and this makes this story a worthwhile read. You feel for Alvah as when he is startled by a polar bear, or when he breaks his cats ear, or wakes up blind. You dive into the cold of his boat and the difficulties of day to day life at -30F. Throughout it all, you are thankful that it is he and not you.
    I finished this book with an odd feeling of understanding. I was not there, but through his words, the author made me think that I was. I am writing this review months after having finished the book. And yet, I can still picture in my mind the pain and the pleasure that Alvah Simon endured. Very very powerful.

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