In an enthralling narrative filled with color and detail, journalist Reid Mitenbuler Wanderlust: An Eccentric Explorer, An Epic Journey, A Lost Age paints a stirring depiction of Peter Freuchen (1886–1957), the Danish explorer and ethnographer. At a tender age of 20, Freuchen put aside his medical studies at the University of Copenhagen to embark on a voyage to Greenland, igniting a passion for Arctic discovery that defined his life. He devoted almost two decades to probing the Far North, immersing himself in the study of Inuit traditions and even bonding with an Inuit woman whom he married.
Freuchen’s courageous explorations were not without their fair share of peril. The harsh polar environment came with its trials, from treacherous storms and frail ice to a scarcity of game and wolves threatening his sled dogs. One of the most terrifying incidents occurred when he found himself trapped beneath his own sled amidst a blizzard. Demonstrating a tenacity that typified his character, he fashioned a tool from his frozen waste to dig himself out. However, this ordeal resulted in severe frostbite, necessitating the amputation of his foot and part of his leg.
Upon his retirement from physical exploration at the age of 37, Freuchen did not hang his hat. He lent his expertise to MGM, consulting on scripts inspired by the Arctic landscape, several of which were adaptations of his own novels. His time in Hollywood brought him face to face with its glamour, although he found himself grappling with the inconsistent nature of the film industry.
Freuchen’s resilience wasn’t confined to the icy tundras. During the dark period of WWII, he employed his indomitable spirit in service to the Danish resistance following the Nazi invasion. His efforts included safeguarding Nazi refugees, stashing ammunition in his shed, and distributing critical intelligence.
His post-exploration years also saw him journeying across the globe, delivering lectures about his adventures and passionately advocating for the preservation of the Inuit lifestyle. Remarkably, in 1956, he made headlines by clinching the top prize in The $64,000 Question, then America’s most popular quiz show.
Drawing from a rich tapestry of memoirs, letters, travelogues, and novels, Wanderlust: An Eccentric Explorer, An Epic Journey, A Lost Age is at times enthralling and never disappointing. Mitenbuler has woven a vibrant account of a man fueled by irrepressible wanderlust. Freuchen was a man who mastered his circumstances rather than being ruled by them. A fearless adventurer, a dedicated anthropologist, and a man of indomitable spirit, his life story is as riveting as the frost-bitten landscapes he once explored.