The Best Journey In the World
Reviewed: December 27, 2007
By: Jim Lotz
Publisher: Pottersfield Press
224 pages, $19.95
Jim Lotz is not unknown to Yukon readers. A Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North American, he was the author of Northern Realities, a seminal study published in 1970. Between 1978 and 1980 he published three northern mysteries with an improbably named RCMP detective as the lead character.
This book is neither a study nor fiction, but a memoir of Lotz’s time as part of Operation Hazen, a scientific study undertaken on Elsemere Island in 1957-58. This took Lotz to the Far North and he continued his work there as a glacial meteorologist one and off until 1960.
In the nature of memoirs, we learn about things before and after those dates. Born in England in 1929, Lotz served in the RAF during WW II, spent some time in Africa as a trader in the 1950s and ended up in Canada on something of a whim after that. His work on Operation Hazen led to other employment until 1966 with what was then called the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources.
Since them he’s been freelancing in community development, teaching at several universities and institutes (25 different jobs in all), and has published 23 books on a variety of subjects.
This memoir deals not only with his own time in the north, but attempts to set that scientific expedition within the context of other northern ventures, including those driven by commercial and military motives. He makes an attempt to explain why people get in involved in such projects in the first place and examines the sorts of personalities and relationships that a few seasons in the North can produce under extreme conditions.
I found this book very pleasant reading. Thanks to Flo Whyard for sending it along to me.