- Virginia Johnson
It was Melander’s silver tongue that got the others to try to run, or rather paddle, 1200 miles to a new life. All four Swedes wanted the same—to be away from the boredom and poverty of their years-long indentures. Melander had been a sailor before being put to cut wood at New Archangel in Russian North America, and the icy waters beckoned to him.
The two others he wanted were a stolid woodsman and hunter named Karlsson and an uncommonly sweet-faced thief named Braaf. The fourth, well, he tumbled to the plan and what could the rest do? Obnoxious wind-bag though he was.
The Sea Runners, by Ivan Doig, takes a while to unfold as preparations are made for the grand escape down the Alaskan coast. But that extra time gives readers a chance to know the characters and their situation better before they set off in their Tlinglit canoe, navigating the tempestuous waters while trying to avoid attracting the attention of the local tribes.
The Sea Runners is a rich, well-written survival story based on a true incident that occurred in the 1850s. It might be compared to Hemingway’s and Jack London’s works, but I find it far more enjoyable for its dry humor and vivid descriptions of the wild lands and sea they encounter. Get to know The Sea Runners. They’ll make a lasting impression even as they paddle into the mists of the past.