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Item #: BK2289-836
STRANGE AND DANGEROUS DREAMS: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness Powter 2006 1st ed Hardcover DJ New
By Powter, Geoff
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Seattle, Mountaineers, 2006, 1st edition. 256 pp. New hardcover with dust jacket.

A "human desire for heroes of virgin promise" is the foundation that winds through three areas, 1) the burdened (Lewis, Scott, Andree and Crowhurst), 2) the bent (Franklin, Batten and Crowley) and 3) the lost (Corti, Wilson, Denman and three Watermans). This is a frightening and compulsive read that visits your thoughts for a long time.

These are lower and greater than average people we have heard bits and pieces about, but rarely have an opportunity to get inside them with their thoughts, goals, failings, families and colleagues. There is a current "rediscovery" of the age of heroism focused on a few who made the last great efforts. These are compelling stories of naivety and idealistic persistence with a strong dose of ignorance and lack of adequate preparation.

Meriwether Lewis is melancholy and committed suicide after the Lewis and Clark expedition for Thomas Jefferson. Robert Scott is overtaken by scurvy and cold and dies within 18 kilometers of a "one ton depot" of food and supplies after Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten him to the South Pole by almost one month. Solomon Andree attempted to balloon over the North Pole, and in the end he and two companions died from eating trichinosis-infected bear meat and were also probably asphyxiated by carbon monoxide in a tent made from airtight balloon fabric. Donald Crowhurst attempted to sail solo around the world on the not-quite-finished tri-hull "Teignmouth Electron" only to wander in the south Atlantic (while supposedly racing around the globe), then disappear under the influence of bipolarity from his ship in the north Atlantic five months later.

In pursuit of the mythic Northwest Passage, Sir John Franklin, Britain's "Arctic hero," led all 127 of his men to a "fate as terrible as the imagination can conceive." Considered one of the best equipped expeditions of 1845, over the course of four years they endured disease, starvation, lead poisoning and cannibalism. It is only modern forensic science that has revealed the true "hand of Franklin" in the last few years. Jean Batten was raised to be independent and groomed for a chance at distinction. In 1934-36 Batten flew solo from the United Kingdom to Buenos Aires, Australia and New Zealand and dropped out of public view at the age of 28, and died of an infected dog bite in a budget tourist apartment south of Palma de Mallorca, Spain at age 73.

Alister Crowley excelled in tasting everything forbidden and expanding his sensual experiences. Crowley set high standards in whatever he did, but he also evolved into an "abrasive, drug-addicted and sexually exploitive man who helped ruin the lives of many people who brushed up against him." In 1901-02 his expedition reached 6700 meters on K2, despite his daily drug exploration with opium, cocaine, laudanum, hashish, mescaline and alcohol and his use of prostitutes and battling with all his teammates. Tabloids in the UK and USA ate up Crowley's antics of always pushing the envelope, labeling him the "Wickedest Man in the World." In the 1970s his mantra, "do thou what thou wilt," was adopted by a number of libertine and occult sects.

In The Lost (Part 3) Corti and Longhi attempt to climb the Eiger in 1957, ignoring guidebooks and previous routes, while two more experienced German climbers began below them and as an adverse storm moved in is best described by French alpinist Lionel Terray, "What was going on before my eyes was a hundred times more stupid than the normal run of heroic follies which the nature of the sport sometimes entails..."

Maurice Wilson insisted he could climb to the 8850 m summit of Everest by fasting and courage only to result in "an elaborate suicide" in 1934. Eric Shipton's Everest reconnaissance team found Wilson's body on 9 July 1935 in his wind-shredded tent an easy flat walk from a large cache of 30 to 40 boxes of supplies. Earl Denman looked to wild nature for self-purification, preferred to travel in bare feet while he viewed himself as "woven from the same fabric as the Sherpas . . ." Denman and Tenzing Norgay made one of the longest Everest approaches in Himalayan history (up the Tista and Yaru Rivers) to the north side. The entire trip lasted five weeks. Denman published "Alone on Everest" and other books, but died of bone cancer in 1997 two days short of his 80th birthday in New Zealand.

The Watermans were consumed by "mountains and climbing . . . as a beacon of hope, but always dealt with deamons and problems interacting with others, except mountains. They were driven by compulsion, ultimately, the father and two sons, dying separately, in mountains.

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