DOWN NORTH TO THE SEA: 2,000 Miles by Canoe to the Arctic Ocean by Alden C. Hayes (Pruett Publishing: $12.95, illustrated)

In 1938, "six flat-bellied young men who are now softer and well worn" set out on a canoe trip through largely uncharted areas of northern Canada and Alaska in search of archeological sites that might help document the prehistoric migrations of Asiatic people into the New World. The scientific aim of the journey was little more than a cover to satisfy the participants' yen to travel, and Alden Hayes never pretends that he and his friends followed a high calling--or found high adventure. But his unassuming prose conveys the often uncomfortable realities of friends living in very close quarters amid primitive conditions. Sitting down with this very personal book is like finding a box of faded letters from a friend who explored the northern wilderness when it was still untainted.

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