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Historic Arctic Sites
“A trio of Penn State Abington students joined a team of international researchers in Norway this summer, documenting the early exploration of the world’s northernmost archipelago. A grant awarded to Abington’s resident polar explorer and professor of anthropology, P.J. Capelotti, funded the experience.”
“…with Capelotti’s smooth writing style and extensive research, many people will be able to enjoy these exciting tales of grand adventure. For historians looking for a different perspective on a tired subject, to students looking for an exciting, in-depth review of Arctic exploration in its larger context, Capelotti’s book presents the narrative in a way that both informs and compels the reader to learn more about Arctic exploration. Though there are other books within the [University of Calgary Press’s] Northern Lights series that highlight Arctic exploration, Shipwreck at Cape Flora is an exceptional addition to the series. Capelotti’s book offers both an exciting tale of adventure, while providing the series with a historical background of Arctic exploration.
Chris McEvoy, writing in Polar Geography 38 (2): 2015.
From Canada’s History:
The voyages of Benjamin Leigh Smith in the late 1800s were anything but halcyon. In Shipwreck at Cape Flora, American archaeologist P.J. Capelotti delivers a comprehensive biography of Leigh Smith, one of the most significant but unsung Arctic explorers.
This is an incredible feat, since Leigh Smith never published his research and, unlike other explorers, shied away from any opportunity for fame and glory from his five Arctic expeditions. Drawing from unpublished diaries and journals and his own explorations of the places Leigh Smith visited, Capelotti describes Leigh Smith’s life as very unusual and awkward right from childhood. This perhaps provides a plausible motive for the explorer’s passion to find a part of the world with which he could better connect.
The entire book is a well-written adventure, but the best story is Capelotti’s tale of the events leading up to Leigh Smith’s fifth and final expedition, when his beloved ship Eira foundered off Cape Flora, Franz Josef Land, north of Russia. Remarkably, it is a story of survival, as not one member of the crew was lost during nearly a year trapped on the ice. The account of how they survived is also fascinating.