• Down the Great Unknown

  • John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon
  • By: Edward Dolnick
  • Narrated by: Danny Campbell
  • Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (168 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Drawing on rarely examined diaries and journals, Down the Great Unknown is the first book to tell the full, dramatic story of the Powell expedition.

On May 24, 1869 a one-armed Civil War veteran, John Wesley Powell, and a ragtag band of nine mountain men embarked on the last great quest in the American West. The Grand Canyon, not explored before, was as mysterious as Atlantis - and as perilous. The 10 men set out from Green River Station, Wyoming Territory, down the Colorado in four wooden rowboats. Ninety-nine days later, six half-starved wretches came ashore near Callville, Arizona.

Lewis and Clark opened the West in 1803; six decades later Powell and his scruffy band aimed to resolve the West’s last mystery. A brilliant narrative, a thrilling journey, a cast of memorable heroes - all these mark Down the Great Unknown, the true story of the last epic adventure on American soil.

©2009 Edward Dolnick (P)2019 HarperAudio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Down the Great Unknown

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Modern references take away

The story and history is, of course, wonderful. The stupid modern analogies of race cars and airplanes is annoying. These modern references distract and take away from the spirit of the diaries and works from where it came.
It would have been much better to keep it in the 1860s. If I wanted to hear how airplanes and race cars work, how highways and speedometers work, I would ,. Anyway, .

8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great story, perhaps over-narrated.

Good listening, also enjoyed diversions into geology, historical context and side stories of other explorers. My only critique is the extent to which Dolnick seeks to convince the reader that navigating a river is dangerous: employing analogies of bucking Broncos, plunging dolfins etc.- I might suggest excessively.

4 people found this helpful

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Entertaining Story

This book held my interest the entire time. It’s a great story with just the right amount of detail.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Spectacular

Truly amazing, highly recommended. 11 more words required. 7 more words required. 3 more words

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great story but the endless comparisons

The story is great and important to learn about. Lots of interesting history. The endless silly comparisons and redundant telling of trivial information make the book far longer than it needs to be and at times very hard to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Long on biographies and Civil War, short on canyon

For me, it overtelling of biographical detail of Powell and others. It had too brief Intel on Canyon features and names of rapids, which when it was there kept up my interest. Good for enthusiasts of Civil War detail.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Hokey narration cheapens the book

The book is a good enough history in itself and is well researched and structured. The reading of it is done in a hokey “old-timey” voice which feels like the producers who chose the voice direction are trying to harken back to some idea of the old West, which some Easterners may have, but which never truly existed. Makes what is an amazing history feel like some bad western from the 1950’s.

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No exaggerations

With regard to the reviewer that opined that the author had laid it on a bit thick: I wonder if they have experienced the power of the Colorado through the Canyon. I just finished my seventh trip. A woman died about 2 minutes ahead of my trip. I have already lost a colleague on a previous trip. I had the opportunity to “safely swim” a baby rapid late in one of my trips. Let me just say it was humbling and in many regards terrifying. To attempt such without a life jacket is clearly hopeless. What Powell accomplished in the regions preventing even scouting rapids is evidence of a beneficent God, to say the least!

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Down The Great Unknown

Excellent adventure book. The narrator was perfect for this book. The characters were brought to life in an excellent way. I have read this book half a dozen times and listening made it new and exciting all over again. Highly recommend.

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Where was the editor?

I love stories of exploration and survival. This one is well researched. But it is ruined By all of the illustrations