Out in the Cold: One Last Audiobook Excerpt

The Parks Canada recreation of the first North American Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland – complete with iceberg. Click to enlarge.

There’s just time to sneak in another excerpt from my latest book, Out in the Cold: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada before the audiobook version goes live on Audible.com any day now. In this clip, sailors set out a thousand years ago from Greenland in search of what would become Vinland, a tiny settlement on the northern tip of Newfoundland, a place called L’Anse aux Meadows today.

It’s me speaking; I narrate the book. I hope you enjoy it.


You can get the written version of Out in the Cold on Amazon, here, and the audiobook versions of my other books here:

Common Sense and Whiskey on Audible.
Visiting Chernobyl on Audible.

And here are several more written and spoken excerpts from Out in the Cold.

Out in the Cold: Another Audiobook Excerpt

Here is another excerpt from my latest book, Out in the Cold: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. The audiobook version should be live on Audible.com any day now. This clip takes you along on a midnight cruise among the icebergs in Greenland.

It’s me speaking; I narrate the book. I hope you enjoy it.


You can get the written version of Out in the Cold on Amazon, here, and the audiobook versions of my other books here:

Common Sense and Whiskey on Audible.
Visiting Chernobyl on Audible.

And here are several more written excerpts from Out in the Cold.

Manifesto for Travel

This morning I sat down to begin the long process of narrating the audio version of my new travel adventure book Out in the Cold. As I reread the preface (it has been a little while since I wrote it), I thought it stands alone as a pretty good manifesto for travel. So I thought I’d share:


I’m pretty sure the discovery of America started with a bar fight and I believe I can persuade you that it is so. The chain of events that brought Norse ships to Newfoundland began when a court in Norway found Thorvald Erickson guilty of murder and tossed him out of the country.

The Saga of Eirik the Red, Thorvald’s son, doesn’t say exactly what his old man got up to that night, just that he was exiled “because of some killings,” so Thorvald and the clan loaded up the truck and they moved to northwest Iceland.

Eirik grew up and married a local girl. When Thorvald died they moved south where before long the local sheriff found Eirik guilty of murder just like his old man, and Eirik was banished from Iceland. Thorvald’s bar fight led to Iceland, Greenland and the New World. We will visit the settlement his grandson built in Newfoundland.

But this is not about the Vikings, although they are here. This is a collection of northern tales from the frozen-tight Svalbard archipelago, 800 miles from the North Pole, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Atlantic-facing Canada.


A daiquiri on your cruise ship balcony may imply that you are on vacation, but it does not mean that you are traveling. Crowding people together on “fun ships” to share viruses for several days holds up as well as socks from Wal-Mart.

Once, in the Himalayas, in a place called Sikkim, whose very geography required vocational derringdo, a mad driver told me “Man didn’t evolve from apes to act like sheep.” He meant that you must engage.

Your free time is as surely an asset as your home or your car. I say, get out there and put some of it to good use. If the unexamined life isn’t worth living (Socrates), get to examining. Compare and contrast your experiences to those of others.

In these pages we will meet an artisan carver of narwhal bones in Greenland. We’ll cruise the streets of Reykjavik with an ebullient Icelandic author, hike with a part-time tour guide in Labrador who cannot imagine why you’d want to be anywhere other than on the tundra, and spend time with others whose lives, objectively, are nothing like your own.

We will shake hands with the President of Iceland and stand naked and alone on the side of the glacier Vatnajokull (separately from the president). We will drop in on the last French outpost in North America, talk shop with a diplomat and eat wind dried sheep in the Faroe Islands, dine with strangers alongside icebergs at a lighthouse north of Newfoundland, and find Greenland so beguiling, we will visit twice.


Who ever thinks they are finally and fully grown up? Not me, not in my 20s, or 30s or even 40s. I still think people who wear adult clothes and enjoy it, skirt and blazer, suit and tie, selling investments or copiers or conjuring income from intangibles like air time or web space – those people are grown up, or at least grown up in a way I’m not, in the western businessy way.

I will never be a winning jockey in the Great American Corporate Advancement Derby. I don’t enjoy yard work or the NBA and I don’t know anything about grown-up stuff like the American Automobile Association or why you should be a member. Or what those ads for active traders are talking about, when you be honest.

I don’t buy clothing with the logo of its manufacturer or shop on Black Friday. That others do, that’s real nice. I just don’t have their motivation. But I think I’ve got one thing on them: I’m pretty sure the flame burns brighter in my magic adventure lamp.

Let us all think of a place that sounds exciting, take ourselves there and see what happens, minding Nelson Mandela’s words: May our choices reflect our hopes and not our fears.


Imagine a range of actions: At one extreme, you never leave your house, and at the other you drive into Somalia honking your horn and waving an American flag. I like it just inside the go-too-far side of that tent, poking on the fabric with a dull knife, trying not quite hard enough to cut through.

Within reason, mind you. Cut through the fabric and you end up kidnapped in Niamey, blasted in two in Helmand or beheaded in the new Caliphate. So let us stick with adventure reasonably achievable. In this case, starting 800 miles shy of the North Pole, chasing a total eclipse.


Preface from the book Out in the Cold, Travels North: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. Buy it in paperback here. Read other excerpts here. Kindle version soon. The audiobook version, begun today, should hit in the fall.

Also published on Medium.

My New Book. Go Get This.

Read this book. It will make you a better person.

Go get yourself a copy right now!

Look Inside Out in the Cold

After a title goes live on Amazon, as Out in the Cold did last week, it takes a few days for the “Look Inside” feature to appear. From this morning “Look Inside” is live on Amazon, giving you the chance to get a more extensive preview of what you’ll be buying. I am not sure whether “Look Inside” grabs more of a book’s text over time, but right now we have some of the beginning available and some of my reporting on Iceland. We’ll have to watch and find out. Still, I invite you to use the feature to see more of what’s inside Out in the Cold. Then, grab yourself a copy.

Achieving Greenland and Searching for Robert

First thing we have to do, we have to find Robert.

The men smoking outside the concrete block terminal are not Robert so I ask around inside. The man behind the check-in counter might as well be collecting Arctic tumbleweeds. No flights are pending; no one is checking in.

He does not know Robert.

Together we lean over his counter to look down to the harbor. One boat is speeding away and there don’t seem to be any others. He flips his palms up and shakes his head, “I think you just go down there and wait. That is your only chance.”

You can’t fly to Tasiilaq, the biggest town on the eastern side of Greenland, for lack of sufficient flat space for an airstrip. So we have flown to a gravel strip called Kulusuk Airport. To get to Tasiilaq we must traverse the mouth of the Ammassalik fjord. We booked that online and all we know is, get to Kulusuk and ask for Robert.

We insult the silence with our prissy roll aboard carry-on bags, scraping and skipping the damned things down the rough gravel. Show more respect and stand still, and the quiet closes up around you as a vehement, absolute thing.

A man from Cologne with a massive backpack walks ahead of us. He has arrived with no itinerary beyond walking for two weeks. His pack reaches up past his head, bulging with two weeks of freeze-dried food and powdered milk. Once he walked from Ilullisat to Sisimiut in western Greenland. Right now he plans to circumambulate Ammassalik Island. He puts great store in the advice of Robert, but none of us know how to find him.

Airport to harbor, perhaps a twenty-minute walk. No boats in sight. Either side of the gravel path, just rock and a little but not much tenacious flora. Our destination across the water is low and bare with mountains rising snow-capped, glaciers embedded toward the top. Clouds tease the ridges but do not suggest a threat of rain. In between individual icebergs, not a field, rise like several-story buildings.

It turns out that two tiny Danish-built fiberglass Poca speedboats, so low slung that the dock hides them both, bob in the sea beyond the dock. Two Greenlandic men stand down there on the shore below the dock, neither in so much as a jacket, enjoying the northern summer.

We ask, “Robert?” and the younger man, with no English, shakes his head no, “Christian.” We and the backpacker, who is expecting the same ride, are at a bit of a loss until we work out, through gestures and goodwill, that Christian is here on behalf of Robert. For us, that is good.


A tiny excerpt from my new book. Go grab it, it’s good stuff. And sign up for a free audiobook version of Common Sense and Whiskey by clicking the box on the right. Drawings every Friday.

Greenland from Above

When you fly between Halifax, in eastern Canada, and Keflavik, Iceland, you cross Greenland at a much lower altitude than on the big mainline intercontinental routes. If you’re lucky enough to catch a clear day, the view of Greenland is spectacular. Betting that most people haven’t had this particular opportunity, I thought I’d share some of what you might see. In case you’d like to examine what’s going on on the ground (nothing human), each of these five photos links to a much larger version on EarthPhotos.com. They’re from inside a jet, mind you. When we’re able to charter a helicopter and hang out the window, I’ll let you know.

In my new book Out in the Cold (published within the week), we befriend Inuit bone carvers to learn about the fearsome Greenlandic totem known as the tupilak, and camp with an itinerant Italian musician who dreams of building the island’s first luxury resort, among other adventures in Greenland. I’ll put up a link to the book as soon as it’s available. For now, enjoy the view above Greenland:

This top photo is from a smaller plane, a Bombardier Q400 turboprop, leaving Tasiilaq, Greenland for Reykjavik. The rest are from the IcelandAir Haifax to Keflavik flight.

Photo Preview

My new book Out in the Cold should be live on Amazon next week so I thought I’d send us into the weekend with a photo from each of the countries in the book. All these are clickably linked to higher res, much larger and more enjoyable versions at EarthPhotos.com.

Meanwhile, between now and next week, here’s a little text from the book:

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon: France in North America
Svalbard by Snowmobile
Naked and Freezing in Iceland

The photos:

This is the tiny little idyllic town called Tjørnuvik, on the island of Streymoy, Faroe Islands.

Here is Iceland’s famous Gulfoss, looking good full of snowmelt in June.

Tasiilaq, the administrative hub of east Greenland.

The super friendly, perfectly-sized city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

And the object of our quest to Svalbard, 800 miles from the North Pole. A total solar eclipse.

Far and Wide

Places perpendicularly opposed: As we leave for the equator this week, with posts from Kenya to follow, I’m working to put to bed my new book, Out in the Cold, about adventure travels in and around the Arctic. Hope to have it published in February, only four or five months late. Not bad for an author. I’ll run a few excerpts here next month. Here’s the cover:


Short Trip to East Greenland in Photos

I thought I might compile several of the photos from our recent east Greenland trip here in one place. Each links to a larger version in EarthPhotos.com‘s Greenland Gallery.

The first two are southeast Greenland on the approach from Toronto to Keflavik, Iceland. Much closer than when you’re lucky enough to glimpse Greenland on a clear day from 10,000 meters on a trans-Atlantic flight.



From Keflavik International you transfer to Reykjavik city field for an Air Iceland flight to Kulusuk, east Greenland. The main city on the entire 21,000 kilometer coast of east Greenland is Tasiilaq (hardly a proper city really, with just over 2000 people). Trouble is, it’s on an island without enough flat space for an airstrip. So you take a helicopter or speedboat across the Ammassalik Fjord. Here is an iceberg from the speedboat, along the way.


It is a short walk into town, and these sled dogs are there to welcome you.


Here are a few photos of Tassilaq, beginning with icebergs in the tiny bay beyond town. I’m guessing that once they’ve floated in they stick around for a while. Once they have floated into the mouth of the little bay, what are the odds they will soon find their way back out?





And finally, a multiframe panorama with a wider view.


A little stream flows through town from what they call the valley of flowers. This is where the town cemetery is, row after row of mostly unmarked white crosses. Follow the stream up the hill and you’re rewarded with this fine view back across town.


The workshop Stunk carves all manner of bones, tusks and antlers – seal, reindeer, ox, bear, narwhal – into figurines, necklaces and the like.


Here, a narwhal tusk is roughed into shape for carving.


And this is a result of Stunk handiwork, a tupilak, a sort of shamanic fetish carved from seal bone.


This is our new friend Hans, proprietor of Stunk, with his much-loved daughter Paula. Hans was kind enough to host us in his home, a real honor.


It’s not every day: Here is new inventory for his shop on Hans’s front porch, the humerus bone of a polar bear, given to him by a friend.


These skins do not necessarily have anything to do with the bone on Hans’s porch. They are hanging on a line all the way across town.


After having taken the speedboat on the way from Kulusuk airport to Tasiilaq, we rode the helicopter back to the airport. Here are some of the views. In this top one, Tasiilaq is on the little bay in the center. If you click to enlarge the photo you’ll see Tasiilaq town on the bank on the left.




This is sort of a first pass at the Greenland photos we brought back. I’ll be going through them all this fall and posting more to the Greenland Gallery at EarthPhotos.com. And this trip will be included in my upcoming book about travel in the north, which will cover Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, maritime northeastern Canada and Finland. Working title is Out in the Cold. Watch for it, and see my other two books.