For fans of Hope Jahren, Helen MacDonald, and Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist's journey from Washington State to high above the Arctic Circle -- traveling across remote and rugged terrain solely by human power -- to rediscover birds, the natural world, and her own love of science.
During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.
In March of 2012 she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace -- migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou, and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences. A unique blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative, the book explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of creatures whose daily survival is nothing short of miraculous. It is a journey through the heart, the mind, and some of the wildest places left in North America.
In the end, The Sun Is a Compass is a love letter to nature, an inspiring story of endurance, and a beautifully written testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
''A truly astounding journey, beautifully written...An edge-of-your-seat thrilling read...My favorite book of 2019, and one of the best Alaskan books I have ever read.'' --Eowyn Ivey, New York Times bestselling author
''Imagine trekking four times farther than Cheryl Strayed did in Wild, without a trail, through swarms of mosquitoes thick enough to suck caribou dry. In this marvelous tale of grit and grace, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert leaves behind a lab full of caged chickadees to embark on her own epic migration to the Arctic, reconnecting with the reverence for nature that drove her to science in the first place...This intimate book is a precious window into a remote wilderness of formidable beauty.'' -- Emily Voigt, author of The Dragon behind the Glass
''Caroline Van Hemert has written a riveting book full of birds, danger, beauty and wonder. Her intrepid travels with her equally adventurous husband left me breathless with awe.'' --Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author
Caroline Van Hemert, PhD, is a biologist and adventurer whose journeys have taken her from the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean to the swamps of the Okavango Delta. She currently works at the USGS Alaska Science Center and regularly publishes articles in scientific journals about birds and other wildlife in the north. Her research and expeditions have been featured by the New York Times, MSNBC, National Geographic, and more. She lives in Alaska with her husband and two young sons.