During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.
In March of 2012 she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic. Travelling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft and canoe, they explored northern landscapes so remote there were no maps or guidebooks to mark them. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace – migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences.
A unique blend of science, adventure and personal narrative, the book explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of creatures whose daily survival is nothing short of miraculous. It is a journey through the heart, the mind and some of the wildest places left in North America.
In the end, The Sun Is a Compass is a love letter to nature, an inspiring story of endurance and a beautifully written testament to the resilience of the human spirit.