Though less known today than contemporaries like Amundsen and Peary, Knud Rasmussen (1879–1933) was one of the most intriguing of the great early 20th century Arctic explorers. Born and raised in Greenland, and part Inuit on his mother's side, Rasmussen could shoot a gun and harness a team of sled dogs by the time he was eight. Nevertheless he was well versed in the civilized arts and came to exploration after failing to make a career as an opera singer in Europe. He was obviously more at home on the ice floes than the stage, and undertook some of the most astounding feats of endurance in the annals of polar exploration including his record-setting 18,000-mile "Great Sled Journey"—the first to traverse the Northwest Passage by dogsled. More impressively, he travelled without the elaborate preparations and large support staffs employed by other explorers, surviving with only a few Inuit assistants and living off the land. He once explained his approach by saying, "[As a child] my playmates were native Greenlanders; from the earliest boyhood I played and worked with the hunters, so even the hardships of the most strenuous sledge-trips became pleasant routine for me."
Despite his extraordinary physical prowess, Rasmussen was one of the most intellectual of the great explorers, more interested in scientific study than glamorous feats, producing (among many other works) a ten-volume account documenting Inuit spirituality and culture, an accomplishment that earned him the title "the father of Eskimology."
In this first full-length biography, Stephen R. Bown brings Rasmussen's inspiring story to English readers in all its richness, giving White Eskimo the readability of a good novel.