... a gripping adventure tale that deserves an honored place in the long bookshelf of volumes dealing with arctic shipwrecks, winter ordeals, and survival struggles ... On the (icy) surface, the Barents voyages possessed all the virtues of romance a sail into hostile waters on three-masted ships and on a dream of discovery. But like most stories of arctic adventure, there is a more prosaic aspect ... Pitzer sets out an ominous tone as Barents’s first mission sets out. On page after page the crew’s adventures and survival ordeals are beautifully rendered[.]
... for its richly descriptive contribution to the literature of harrowing expeditions, Andrea Pitzer's deeply researched Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World is most welcome ... the real grip of the book lies in the horrendous dangers and hardships endured by Barents and his shipmates, and the determination with which they met them ... Sitting in my warm, secure house, even I was utterly (and agreeably) terrified and marveled as I always do at the courage and stamina of early explorers.
Icebound...gives readers a helpful accounting of the unique political context in which Barents set sail ... Pitzer writes with care about the Arctic landscape Barents encountered—a dangerous world teeming with life and all that relentless ice, which would interest anyone who’s sailed in bad weather or, say, scraped ice off a windshield in subzero temperatures. But Icebound is curiously dispassionate about its human subjects. Over some 200 pages, events are dutifully logged, hewing closely to de Veer’s account. Yet Pitzer seems reluctant to venture into the minds of the individuals who gambled so much and took such pains to tell their stories. Her book follows 'the men'—often unnamed and undifferentiated; in doing so, this spare retelling revels in the monotony of 16th-century exploration.
Icebound is a fascinating modern telling of Barents’s expeditions. The book faces limitations due to its very old source material ... Icebound while fluid in its telling and thorough in its research, necessarily lacks the human element of the greatest adventure tales. This is not to gainsay the book’s drama. Ms. Pitzer presents a compelling narrative situated in the context of Dutch imperial ambition. She writes vividly about the 'unnerving isolation' of venturing north and east of Scandinavia into uncharted waters.
The monotony of their lives—punctuated by moments of terror—is chillingly told ... It’s a darkly fascinating tale about a venture that appears today—and must have seemed to many at the time—sheer folly ... Neither de Veer nor the author probes deeply into the motives of the crew members, nor of Barents himself, who remains an oddly opaque figure throughout the book ... readers can vicariously experience what it would be like to push themselves to their physical and psychological limits. And they can wonder about how they would fare in similar circumstances ... This is not a book for the squeamish. Pitzer’s prose is beautifully wrought, but unrelenting. Yet it is ultimately hopeful—not just because the survivors stage an astonishing escape, but because we watch them struggle together right up to death’s door to achieve it. Theirs is a tale of good triumphing in extremis.
Narratives of frozen beards in polar hinterlands never lose their appeal. Most of the good stories have been told, but in Icebound Andrea Pitzer fills a gap ... Pitzer is an able guide to Barents’s three Arctic voyages ... To break up the winter monotony, Pitzer works hard to establish context, whether of exploration in general or polar castaways in particular. Besides traveling in Barents’s footsteps, she has diligently mined the sources ... Pitzer’s prose is robust, clear and sometimes elegant.
This is a masterful re-creation of a desperate fight for survival. Based on extensive research, the book takes us back nearly half a millennium and plunks us down in a vividly realized world in which sailing off into the unknown really meant just that ... More than just another book about a disastrous sea voyage, this is a richly evocative story about a particular period in the history of exploration.Icebound deserves a place beside such classics as Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage and Roland Huntford’s The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundson’s Race to the South Pole .
... [an] impressively researched history ... Pitzer captures the terror of bone-chilling temperatures and crushing ice floes, and includes edifying digressions on the Dutch war of independence (1568–1648), Viking navigation techniques, and scurvy’s deadly effects on the human body. This engrossing account thrills and educates.