• Tip of the Iceberg

  • My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier
  • By: Mark Adams
  • Narrated by: Mark Adams
  • Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (159 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

**The National Best Seller**

From the acclaimed, best-selling author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, a fascinating and funny journey into Alaska, America's last frontier, retracing the historic 1899 Harriman Expedition.

In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury "floating university", populated by some of America's best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet, John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity. More than 100 years later, Alaska is still America's most sublime wilderness, both the lure that draws a million tourists annually on Inside Passage cruises and a natural resources larder waiting to be raided. As ever, it remains a magnet for weirdos and dreamers.

Armed with Dramamine and an industrial-strength mosquito net, Mark Adams sets out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Using the state's intricate public ferry system, the Alaska Marine Highway System, Adams travels 3,000 miles, following the George W. Elder's itinerary north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continuing west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encounters dozens of unusual characters (and a couple of very hungry bears) and investigates how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska's current struggles in adapting to climate change.

©2018 Mark Adams (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Great nonfiction... takes a topic you thought you knew well and makes it new again.... [Adams’s] storytelling is guaranteed to make you want to get off your beach towel and book passage somewhere in the great wild north.” (Outside)

 “A literary companion to Google Earth.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Adams gives readers an eye-opening look at the past and present history of a fascinating region.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

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What listeners say about Tip of the Iceberg

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  • Overall
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Very engaging

Having spent a lot of time in Alaska I found this a very refreshing and engaging account of the region - great portrait of John Muir - really brought the events of the Harriman expedition to life

7 people found this helpful

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Very enjoyable and informative!

I loved the chapters about the bear warnings and bear encounters. I learned so much from this book while being truly entertained.

1 person found this helpful

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The Iceberg is Massively Satisfying

Never a dull moment. An engaging survey of Alaska through the lenses of history, geography, biology/natural history and sociology. The prose is crisp and engaging. I’ve purchased copies as gifts and am listening to it for a second time.

1 person found this helpful

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Time to go to Alaska

What a wonderful book! History and current events wound together in perfect harmony ! I want led to visit Alaska before, now want to experience Alaska!

1 person found this helpful

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Good Stories, But ...

I really enjoyed a lot of this book. It was great to learn about the Harriman expedition. I thought Adams' personal stories about Alaska were also generally engaging.

But here's the thing: Adams just can't help being a condescending New Yorker. If you have lived in the South, the Midwest or parts of the West, you have probably experienced this type of person--Someone who purports to enjoy your company, but then tells you everything you do wrong because you just do not know better. If Adams were to write about Southern cooking, he would come to your house for dinner, eat everything and tell you how much he liked it--but would then leave and lecture about how bad it is for you.

Adams' recital of the climate change gospel (everything is due to climate change) is cloying. While he admits climate has been changing in Alaska for centuries and that glaciers have been receding well before the 20th Century, he never tries to put two and two together. He seems to have no concept of geological time.

His discussion of oil is particularly ironic given that oil is now again at or over $100 a barrel and prices at the pump have more than doubled, and we have a President begging Saudi Arabia to pump more. A thoughtful and balanced discussion of use and conservation of natural resources would have been welcome, but you won't find it here.

I just wish he had stuck to the main story.


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Skims just the tip of the Harriman expedition

I was hoping for more facts and less prose. The Harriman expedition is a faiint backdrop to the authors own Bill Bryson style travellogue to Alaska.

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Interesting....but not entertaining

I loved Turn Right at Machu Pichu and was hoping for another great listen. Nope...not even close. If you want to learn a lot about Alaska (the stuff we were never taught in school), this book is for you. If you're hoping for a great adventure read, this book is definitely not it. I finally gave up half way through.

In addition, the author chose to narrate his own book, which didn't help. I feel like I wasted a credit on this one.

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Alaska with humor and realism

Adams did a great job narrating his book. I’m always skeptical of authors not from Alaska trying to present a version of it, but Adams really did his research, and presented an impressively realistic version of Alaska with humor, while impressing upon the reader the issues Alaska faces with climate change. I love that Adams didn’t downplay the decrepit look of places and strange characters. He got those spot on. But also showed despite the bizarreness, Alaskans know how to live in and around nature and survive, despite whatever the elected leaders are doing.

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An enjoyable listen

Mark Adams does a good job narrating his book about exploring Alaska via Harriman’s late 1890’s cruise that included John Muir as a passenger. Interesting to experience both the original expedition and modern day Alaska through Adam’s eyes.

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Enjoyed this very much!

Good adventure/travel story with some interesting history. could have used a little better editing to make the 2 stories more clear.