The Sun Is A Compass

The Sun Is A Compass

A 4,000-mile Journey Into the Alaskan Wilds

Book - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Documents the biologist adventurer's treks in the vast wilderness region spanning the Pacific rainforest through the Alaskan Arctic, where she and her husband tested their physical boundaries while making profound natural-world connections.
For fans of Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist's human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure. During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals. In March of 2012 she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace -- migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou, and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences. A unique blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative, the book explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of creatures whose daily survival is nothing short of miraculous. It is a journey through the heart, the mind, and some of the wildest places left in North America. In the end, The Sun Is a Compass is a love letter to nature, an inspiring story of endurance, and a beautifully written testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown Spark,, 2019
Edition: First edition
Description: vii, 308 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780316414425
Branch Call Number: 979.805 Van


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
JessicaGma Mar 10, 2020

This was a really interesting read about this couples' trek across Alaska. Caroline was lost in grad school and both her and her husband are local to Alaska (if I recall correctly) so the idea came about to trek along with home made rowboats. I like reading about places I will likely never travel, but this was a little much. I too echo one of the other commenters about her research on chickadees, was there any results/ideas as to why?

Aug 27, 2019

Generally a good read. Adventure abounds and it is an amazing journey. I do wish the author had a bit more to say about the Inland Passage, since many of us in Seattle are familiar with it. And her work with chickadees could have used a little more space.... what exactly did they find out about the deformed bills? She shines best when writing about the wildlife and the balance of nature. I would have liked to have a map at the start of each chapter, just to keep track of the journey!

The title of this book reminds me of something I once noticed in some internet comments, which is that there are many people who think that finding north from the position of the sun and the time of day, is a vastly complicated problem in orbital mechanics that even Buzz Aldrin couldn't solve.

Don't they teach general science in junior high ("middle") school any more?

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top