The Aleutian Islands are truly a world apart, a chain of volcanic peaks rearing out of the icy Bering Sea a thousand miles from the coast of Alaska's mainland. Surrounded by some of the coldest, stormiest ocean on Earth, lashed by williwaws or shrouded in a blanket of fog, they are remote, forbidding, challenging -- and breathtakingly beautiful on the rare occasions when the sun burns through the gray sky to reveal them in all their solitary splendor. To veteran paddlers like Jon Bowermaster and his companions, the Aleutians hold a special allure, for these jagged shores and unforgiving riptides are the home waters of the kayak.
Their destination is the mythical cradle of the Aleut people, a group known as the Islands of four Mountains at the heart of this all-but-unknown archipelago. Trusting only their skill, their strength, and the seaworthiness of their fragile two-man craft, the four adventurers spent a month on these windswept, mysterious outposts of North America, risking their lives every time they launched their boats. Even a minor mishap could be deadly: a man in the water could hope to survive half an hour at most, and a team that missed landfall in the fog might be swept away by fierce currents into the trackless North Pacific. The nearest rescuers were 150 miles away -- if the radio worked, If the weather was good, if...if...if.
But if the stakes were high, so were the rewards. Bowermaster vividly evokes the adrenaline thrill of facing nature at her harshest, the stunning view of the sunlit Islands from the summit of an active volcano, and the deep, mystical power of the place Itself, an ancient stepping-stone between worlds, where humans have Hued for fluethousand years but whose only inhabitants now are the mummified bodies of prehistoric Aleuts. By the time the four are picked up, they have discovered much -about the islands, about the ocean, about themselves.
A deft blend of adventure, exploration, and history, "Birthplace of the Winds" is an engrossing chronicle of man against the elements, a struggle at once timeless and utterly immediate, played out before a majestic, merciless backdrop.