Ken McGoogan has done it againwritten a vivid, real-life adventure that restores an extraordinary yet forgotten figure to his rightful place in exploration history. Among fur-trade experts, Samuel Hearne is grudgingly recognized as the eighteenth-century British adventurer who, during a remarkable three-year odyssey, became the first European to reach the Arctic coast of North America. InAncient Mariner
, McGoogan demonstrates that Hearne was far more complex, accomplished and influential than the history books suggest.
Beginning with Hearne’s entry into the Royal Navy at twelve years of age, McGoogan paints an authentic portrait of eighteenth-century British life, both on and off the wooden sailing ships. After serving as a midshipman during the tumultuous Seven Years’ War, Hearne moved to London and, in 1766, just twenty-one, joined the Hudson’s Bay Company. Based at the company’s northernmost fort, an ambitious Hearne embarked on an overland quest for rich veins of copper supposedly located “far to the northward where the sun don’t set”and also to discover the Northwest Passage.
In his posthumously published journal, Hearne described the three-year odysseya harrowing journey marked by hardship, hunger and disappointment, and mitigated only by his friendship with the legendary Dene leader Matonabbee. Hearne trekked more than 3,500 miles. His epic adventure culminated in the infamous and still-controversial massacre at “Bloody Falls”an event that, as McGoogan shows, changed him forever.
Drawing on naval history, fur-trade history and literary history, McGoogan portrays Hearne as a skilled navigator, a pioneering anthropologist, a ground-breaking naturalist and a gifted natural artist. He fell in love with a native woman and never fully recovered after she died tragically.
In a fascinating bit of literary detective work, McGoogan also determines that, having returned to London to live out his final days, Hearne met Samuel Taylor Coleridge and inspired the poet to write “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Suffused with McGoogan’s inimitable passion and insight, sparkling with discoveries and reinterpretations,Ancient Mariner is destined to become the non-fiction book of the fall season.