Cover image for Ancient Mariner : the Arctic adventures of Samuel Hearne, the sailor who inspired Coleridge's masterpiece
Ancient Mariner : the Arctic adventures of Samuel Hearne, the sailor who inspired Coleridge's masterpiece
McGoogan, Kenneth, 1947-
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers : Distributed by Publishers Group West, [2004]

Physical Description:
333 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F1060.7.H495 M34 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Though immortalized by Samuel Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," few people know that eighteenth-century British adventurer Samuel Hearne became the first European to see the Arctic Ocean while standing on America's northernmost shore. In Ancient Mariner, McGoogan demonstrates that Hearne was far more complex, accomplished, and influential than history has shown. A Royal Navy midshipman during the Seven Years' War, Hearne moved to London, and in 1766, just twenty-one, joined the Hudson's Bay Company. He embarked on an overland quest for rich veins of copper supposedly located "far to the northward where the sun don't set"--and also to discover the Northwest Passage. Hearne's posthumously published journal, the first book by a European explorer on the Arctic, describes a journey of 3,500 miles marked by hardship, and mitigated only by his friendship with the legendary Dene leader Matonabbee. His epic adventure culminated in the infamous and still-controversial massacre at "Bloody Falls"--a murderous battle between two native tribes that changed him forever. In a fascinating example of literary detective work, McGoogan determines that, having returned to London to live out his final days, Hearne met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, inspiring the poet to write "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Samuel Hearne, the eighteenth-century British sailor who may have been the model for Coleridge's ancient mariner, served at sea during the Seven Years' War, then entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. For 17 years he was in the Arctic, and he became the first European to travel overland across the Arctic Circle. He also enjoyed good relations with the Indians, to the point of marrying a half-Indian wife; founded new fur-trading outposts; and was one of the first Europeans to adopt Indian and Inuit survival techniques in the Arctic. Finally returning to England, he turned his diaries into one of the first major memoirs of Arctic exploration, and in several meetings with him, appears to have impressed Coleridge. Whether the connection thus made was as influential as McGoogan argues, this book is certainly a notable, informative, readable account of a now obscure yet crucial figure in a little-known era of Arctic exploration. A superior bit of maritime history, worthy of adding to virtually any library. --Roland Green Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although more concerned with the harsh realities of 18th-century exploration than the vagaries of rhyme and syntax, McGoogan's study does relate an often brutal tale with a surprising amount of grace and poetry. The book's hero, Samuel Hearne, first went to sea at age 12, as a British navy junior officer, and later became one of the most storied North American adventurers of his day, inspiring Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Hearne (1745-1792) is a compelling subject: a learned man with a passion for Voltaire, and a sailor of some repute in the Seven Years' War, he went on to work for the Hudson Bay Company at its northernmost base, from where he set off on a three-year exploration of northern Canada, a journey he recorded in meticulous detail. The first European to stand on North America's northernmost shore, Hearne had, for a European of his time, an unusual amount of empathy for Native Americans (and a surprising facility with several of their languages). Thus it was especially difficult for him to understand the events that occurred at "Bloody Falls," in which the band Hearne was traveling with massacred a camp of Inuits for no apparent reason. The event haunted Hearne for the rest of his life and played a role in Coleridge's epic poem. Moving from England's bustling ports to the frozen tundra, from disease-wracked trading posts to London's coffeehouses, this work is a swift epic in its own right, providing a snapshot of a delicate world on the cusp of irrevocable change. B&w illus., maps. Agent, Beverley Slopen. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

After enduring the horrors of teenage life in the British Royal Navy at war with France, Samuel Hearne turned his attention to the exploration and description of the Arctic north from 1766 until his death in 1792. His classic (if contentious) A Journey to the Northern Ocean (1795) recorded his three-year, 3,500-mile odyssey from Hudson Bay to the mouth of the Coppermine River on the Arctic coast. Hearne's journals are rich ethnological and scientific accounts of peoples and places, and he extended the Hudson's Bay Company's commercial empire inland, into the Arctic barrens. No mere academic reconstructionist, McGoogan effects an approach in which the narrative does lean on a strong bibliography of major sources, but is embroidered by imaginative reconstructions of assumed dialogue, impressionistic descriptions, and provocative interpretations. McGoogan's deft treatment of life in the navy, Hearne's ordeals in the Arctic, and the social and political context of the times render this a most entertaining read, richly and appropriately illustrated. McGoogan transports readers from the blood-soaked decks of a man-o'-war, through Hearne's experience of exotic life in the Arctic northwest, to his own forensic search for residual links in contemporary Britain. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All public/academic libraries. B. Osborne Queen's University at Kingston