The Arctic


224 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88890-147-X





Reviewed by Nora T. Corley

Nora T. Corley is a librarian in Ottawa.


Fred Bruemmer knows the Arctic well, having wandered the North for thirteen years, eleven of them in Canada, living and travelling with the Inuit and taking photographs by the thousands. This book represents the culmination of these journeys, and the cream of the photos. Bruemmer’s text is well written, informative, and interesting, the result of a great deal of background research. The book is divided into six broad subjects. “The History” gives an excellent mini-history of the Arctic regions, ranging from Pytheas of Massilia through St. Brendan, Ottar, who lived farthest north of all Norwegians; also included are Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky, the early explorers of Siberia, Alaska and Canada’s North, the search for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, and the last of the great explorers — Nansen, Stefansson, Cook, and Peary. “The Land” describes the physical geography of the Arctic and remarks on the Inuit’s intimate knowledge of the region they live in. “The Sea” includes a description of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding polar waters, then describes the various animals who make their home there (walrus, seals, birds, fish, and whales), and whaling, which brought many ships into the Arctic for the better part of two centuries. “The Plants” shows that even in hostile conditions plants can live and give colour to the landscape and nourishment to the people and animals. “The Animals” includes caribou, musk-oxen, polar bears, Barren Ground grizzly bears, ground squirrels, foxes, lemmings, hares, wolves, birds, mosquitoes and other insects, the effects of the vagaries of climate and the intrusion of “progress.” “The People,” the final chapter, discusses man in the Arctic, his adaption to his environment, his clothing, weapons and utensils. Prehistoric man is also described. Sixteen addenda dotted throughout the book deal in greater detail with such subjects as bears, botanical environment, sea mammals, Naskapi, equipment, Lapp journey, boats, shamanism. There is a bibliography of 78 items but regrettably no index. The book is illustrated with Bruemmer’s own superb black-and-white and coloured photographs of the excellence now associated with his name. As stated in the introduction, this book is “an unusually balanced and ranging blend of thoughts, feelings and images.” If one could have only one book on the Arctic, this should be it.


Bruemmer, Fred, “The Arctic,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,