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The Heroic Adventures and Romantic Obsessions of Elisha Kent Kane.
HarperCollins Canada / Counterpoint Press U.S. 2008

Race to the Polar Sea tells the true story of a remarkable American explorer who went in search of an Open Polar Sea at the top of the world, hoping to rescue survivors from the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin. In the 1850s, after sailing farther north than anyone else, Elisha Kent Kane got trapped in the pack ice off Greenland. Having discovered "the American route to the North Pole," he forged a unique, life-saving alliance with the Inuit. Over two years, he battled starvation, disease and a near mutiny before abandoning ship to lead an astounding escape in sleds and small boats. McGoogan celebrated its publication by sailing in Kane Basin with Adventure Canada, which inspired a travel article

. . . inspired a video as well as an interview and a travel article

Reviewers respond:

“A terrifically accessible account of this wide-eyed, extraordinarily intrepid adventurer's thrilling and chilling exploits.”
Kirkus Reviews

“McGoogan's readable biography ensures Kane's place in the pantheon of
polar explorers. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal Review – Starred

“McGoogan's fascinating biography focuses on a neglected figure from the early era of polar exploration. . . .With his access to previously unknown Kane logbooks, McGoogan makes an impressive case for the bravery and importance of the explorer who first identified the Greenland ice sheet.”
Publisher’s Weekly

Question and Answer from TNB
(A self-interview . . .March 13, 2010)

Race to the Polar Sea tells the story of a forgotten explorer?

Elisha Kent Kane was once the most famous man in America. In 1853, he sailed out of New York City as the leader of an Arctic expedition. He was searching for that hapless, long-lost British explorer Sir John Franklin—and for an Open Polar Sea at the top of the world.

So what happened?
He ended up spending two horrific winters farther north than any explorer before him: cold, dark, scurvy, rats, starvation, amputations, deaths, mutinous rebellion – you get the idea. Eventually, he led the most spectacular escape in Arctic history. When he got back to the U.S., The New York Times devoted an entire front page to his adventure. He should be known as the Shackleton of the North.

Yet nobody knows his name?
Kane came from an old Philadelphia family. Secretly, he married an entrancing “spirit-rapper” named Maggie Fox. She was famous throughout the northeast. Knock, knock, knock. Spirits, can you hear me? Eventually, Maggie died in poverty—and for this, Kane has been wrongly blamed. In Race to the Polar Sea, I show that he acted honourably, but was betrayed by his brother and best friend.

What makes the book relevant today?
Righting an historical wrong is always relevant. But also we’ve got global warming.  You’ve seen the headlines. The retreat of the polar ice cap has put the Arctic on front pages around the world. Kane was the most literate of all northern explorers. And he left such a vivid word-picture of the Arctic that it constitutes a singular touchstone. Not long ago, I was sailing in the Northwest Passage where Kane struggled with pack ice and massive icebergs . . . and we encountered nothing but open water!
You can read about that recent voyage here.

And you found a long-lost journal?
The second half of Kane’s journal about his final expedition is the most important document in Kane studies. For decades, scholars have been searching for the first half. Almost by chance, I found it: Kane’s handwritten, 376-page logbook. That private journal, missing for 150 years, sheds new light on the explorer’s entire life. I write about finding it in the prologue to the book.

You’ve written other books about Arctic exploration.
This one makes four. The best-known of the others is Fatal Passage, which won an American Christopher Award as “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” It also won several literary prizes in Canada, and was turned into an award-winning docudrama that aired on BBC and History Channel. I do a cameo as a rugged, wind-blown historian. The other two titles areLady Franklin’s Revenge and Ancient Mariner.

You’ve also written novels?
Only one of them still has legs: Visions of Kerouac: Satori Magic Edition. It’s billed as A Novel of the Beat Generation, the Nineteen-Sixties, Psychedelic San Francisco, Deviltry On The Road, Dharma Bums in the Rockies, the Jungian Self, Drink, Drugs, the French Connection, and the Quest for Great Walking Sainthood, Revised and Introduced by the Author. You can read all about it right here.

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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.