In the breeching of the whales, the winging of the hummingbirds and the calling of the swans, Caroline Van Hemert finally felt peace. This peace came from letting go. She let go of a job that left her feeling miserable and conflicted. She let go of her fears for her family and her future, and her fear of uncertainty. It only took 4,000 miles, six months, and the Arctic wilderness to achieve it.
Caroline, an ornithologist, and her husband Pat, a carpenter, made their trek through Alaska without motors, roads or established trails. The journey was accomplished with rowboats, skis and packrafts. They started in early spring rowing north through the Inside Passage. The couple replaced rowboats with packrafts and skis to cross the mountains into the Yukon. They ended their journey on the Arctic coast in autumn. Stormy seas, threats of avalanches, starvation and soul-crushing swarms of mosquitoes slowed but never stopped the determined couple.
If anything, it was the beauty and wonder of the wilderness that kept them going. Her lyrical descriptions of the landscapes and wildlife infuse her beautiful memoir The Sun is a Compass. Readers who enjoy hiking and travel memoirs with an emphasis on the natural world will enjoy taking the journey with her.