||Martin W. Sandler
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One finds a very limited number of events in history that not only encapsulate the spirit of an age, but tremble on the edge of possibility: That Troy, whose topless towers stirred the West's first and greatest epic verse, could actually be found and excavated; that, on a Christmas night in the midst of the worst trench warfare the world had vet seen. British and German troops could gather together, exchanging whiskey and cigars; that three or four small rips in her hull could bring the unsinkable Titanic to the bottom of the ocean in little more than two hours. The Arctic—where time itself is among the things susceptible to freezing—where, as the inimitable Rudolf Erich Raspe described in his Munchausen tales, sentences spoken in the winter could not be heard until they thawed out the next summer—has seen more than its share of such tales. Writers of fiction and poetry have found it an ideal landscape in which to unfold the extremities of human endeavor; the efforts of a man "to build a fire" in Jack London's story of that name, or the comfort found in a fiery furnace by the eponymous hard-luck prospector of Robert W. Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee." could, it seems, have happened nowhere else. And yet it is the Arctic, more than any other place upon Earth, where the adage that 'Truth is stranger than fiction" finds its most dramatic embodiment, and as the great number of recent books on Arctic explorers testifies, the romance of those "unknown regions of eternal frost" remains strong to this day...