Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie travelled the 1,125 miles of the immense river in Canada that now bears his name, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, only to confront impassable pack ice. In 2016, the acclaimedmemoirist Brian Castner retraced Mackenzie's route by canoe in a grueling journey -- and discovered the Passage he could not find.Disappointment River is a dual...

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Title:Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage
Author:Brian Castner
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Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage Reviews

  • Paul Womack

    Not quite what I expected, but more. A reflective account of several lives connected by a tumultuous river. Reading this book I was reminded that beyond our tame exiatences is passion, unpredictability, the unexpected, and for some of those still bold, the lure of discovery. I would not embark on such a joorney, but the author made it possible to share his adventure emotionally and mentally.

  • Brenda Ayala

    The Northwest Passage is a giant pain in the ass. It’s harsh and cold and the weather is entirely unforgiving; it seems to drive people half-mad.

    After learning that, it makes it all the more impressive that Alexander Mackenzie did it back in the late 1700s and that our author followed in his footsteps more than 200 years later. It’s an arduous journey that is characterized by a ton of hazards.

    It was a surprisingly intense for being an historical narrative and a travel log. I enjoyed learning mo

    The Northwest Passage is a giant pain in the ass. It’s harsh and cold and the weather is entirely unforgiving; it seems to drive people half-mad.

    After learning that, it makes it all the more impressive that Alexander Mackenzie did it back in the late 1700s and that our author followed in his footsteps more than 200 years later. It’s an arduous journey that is characterized by a ton of hazards.

    It was a surprisingly intense for being an historical narrative and a travel log. I enjoyed learning more about a part of North American history I had no idea even existed.

  • Sue

    I won this book on Goodreads. I will give it a fair and honest review.

    Castner’s Disappointment River is advertised as part historical narrative and part travel memoir. I will admit as a history buff I originally was more interested in the historical narrative. Once I started reading, Castner’s personal journey held my interest far more than Makenzie’s journey.

    Castner tells the story of Alexander Makenzie’s trip up the Deh Cho in the 1700s as he searches for the Northwest Passage, and tells his o

    I won this book on Goodreads. I will give it a fair and honest review.

    Castner’s Disappointment River is advertised as part historical narrative and part travel memoir. I will admit as a history buff I originally was more interested in the historical narrative. Once I started reading, Castner’s personal journey held my interest far more than Makenzie’s journey.

    Castner tells the story of Alexander Makenzie’s trip up the Deh Cho in the 1700s as he searches for the Northwest Passage, and tells his own story of canoeing the same river with four companions. Castner has a great writing style that lends itself well to giving us enough information about his journey and his emotions as he was on the Deh Cho (also called the Makenzie) to make his story very compelling. Castner shares with us his fears, his disappointments, frustrations and his joys as he spends two months canoeing to Garry Island at the Arctic Ocean. Even the differences in his experiences (the mental and physical challenges) that occurred with each of his four traveling companions is discussed. I have to say that I was surprised at the extent of the differences though in hindsight that shouldn’t have been all that surprising, since of course each person brings his own strengths and weaknesses.

    Castner’s observations on the indigenous people today were of particular interest to me. It was telling to me that one of the indigenous people told him that he would be writing about the people rather than about the river which was true in some respects. I was glad that Castner was honest about the challenges of the indigenous people as they transition from a people who live off the land to a people who want and need jobs but are living in areas where jobs are few and far between.

    I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading about the emotional and physical challenges of those who are attempting an activity that isn’t accomplished by many.

    One last thing, this book has gotten me interested enough in the Northwest Territories, and the Deh Cho specifically, that I’m putting seeing it on my bucket list. Note I said seeing the Deh Cho, not canoeing it.

  • Jim

    Marco Polo. Columbus. Magellan. Henry Hudson. Captain Cook. Alexander Mackenzie. Lewis & Clark....Mackenzie? We know the names of the great explorers (for both good and bad)--with one big exception. Alexander Mackenzie. I had read something about him as a kid and was fascinated by his story. Finally,with Castner's book published in 2018, we have the complete story of his life--and his epic journey in 1789 across a vast almost completely uninhabited land which today is called "the Northwest T

    Marco Polo. Columbus. Magellan. Henry Hudson. Captain Cook. Alexander Mackenzie. Lewis & Clark....Mackenzie? We know the names of the great explorers (for both good and bad)--with one big exception. Alexander Mackenzie. I had read something about him as a kid and was fascinated by his story. Finally,with Castner's book published in 2018, we have the complete story of his life--and his epic journey in 1789 across a vast almost completely uninhabited land which today is called "the Northwest Territories." Not only does Brian Caster write about the intrepid Scotsman and his journey, but he retraces his 1,200 mile long voyage by canoe up the river which now bears his name. So we follow two adventures, both of which could easily have ended in disaster. But I have to ask the question: why isn't Mackenzie better known? I think the simplest reason is that he was considered a failure-- by himself as well as by others. His overriding goal was to travel on a major river which he hoped would flow west to the Pacific ( through present-day Alaska). This would have been the long sought-for Northwest Passage, a shortcut through the Americas to the riches of China. Instead, Mackenzie's following the great river out of the Great Slave Lake kept taking him ever northward--until he reached the frozen Arctic Ocean. And there was no passage to be found out of there. But, as Castner points out, the supreme irony is that if Mackenzie had done this trip 200 years later, he would have found an ocean becoming increasingly ice-free--so that the great dream of the Northwest Passage could finally be realized!

  • Lizz

    Interesting research, but clearly written for a macho male audience.

    See my other ten word book reviews at my blog: tenwordbookreviews.wordpress.com

  • Marjorie Elwood

    There are two parallel stories in this book: one is of Alexander MacKenzie's voyage to look for the Northwest Passage (when Meriwether Lewis was still 14); the other is of the author's attempt to recreate that voyage. There is a great deal of emphasis (too much so, for me) on the history of various wars, although the information about the travels of the coureurs des bois was illuminating in that I hadn't realized how much of North America was discovered by river, as opposed to by land. Being fro

    There are two parallel stories in this book: one is of Alexander MacKenzie's voyage to look for the Northwest Passage (when Meriwether Lewis was still 14); the other is of the author's attempt to recreate that voyage. There is a great deal of emphasis (too much so, for me) on the history of various wars, although the information about the travels of the coureurs des bois was illuminating in that I hadn't realized how much of North America was discovered by river, as opposed to by land. Being from Canada, the description of the geography of the land was fascinating.

    When the author finally arrives at the end of the river, you share the emotion of succeeding at this incredible journey he just made.

  • Casey Wheeler

    I received a free Kindle copy of Disappointment River by Brian Castner courtesy of Net Galley and Doubleday Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as the description sounded interesting - a mix of history and a modern day reenactment. This is the first book by Brian Castner tha

    I received a free Kindle copy of Disappointment River by Brian Castner courtesy of Net Galley and Doubleday Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as the description sounded interesting - a mix of history and a modern day reenactment. This is the first book by Brian Castner that I have read.

    I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it was less than stellar. The premise of the book is Alexander MacKenzie's search for the Northwest Passage and the author's trip following Mackenzie's path. The parts dealing with the history of MacKenzie's trip were the most enjoyable part of the book. The author's modern day narrative I found to be rambling at times and his writing style made it hard to focus and enjoy the book. It simply was not engaging.

    Some other early reviews have viewed the book differently, but my recommendation is to check it out from your local library before deciding to invest in a copy.

  • gnarlyhiker

    disappointed

  • Angie Boyter

    A really fascinating subject but ultimately disappointing due to writing style

    See my Amazon review:

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