Bookshelf / Island of the Blue Foxes

Island of the Blue Foxes

Disaster and Triumph of the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition

Short Listed for the RBC Taylor Prize & Longlisted for the BC Award for Non-Fiction


"[An] engrossing narrative…Naturalist Georg Willhelm Steller['s]…heroics, and the story of his mates' survival, so expertly recalled by Bown, exemplifies the unstoppable momentum of human curiosity."

Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The story of [an] epic undertaking... It should draw new readers to a neglected chapter in maritime history. Bering's voyage shows the lengths to which humans are driven by their curiosity, and demonstrates the environmental consequences of our greed."


"Bown has drawn on journals, logs, letters and official reports to piece together a story never fully told before. And what a story: adventure and discovery, misery and death, and a cast of characters by turns admirable and appalling, brilliant and hopeless, annoying and plain nasty."

New Scientist

"[An] excellent work of historical reconstruction that will enamor fans of the Age of Exploration."


"Bown's readable history should elevate Bering into the top tier of explorers. For fans of adventure, exploration, and discovery."

Library Journal

"[A] little-known, white-knuckle tale of ambition, ingenuity and the raw fight for survival. Bown has a stellar track record of chronicling the larger-than-life tales of explorers...An amazing story, both in its intimate details of day-to-day adventure and survival and its large-scale political and scientific implications."

Calgary Herald

"Brings North American readers into a part of history seldom written about anywhere."

CBC News

"A worthwhile read and perhaps one of [Bown's] best. In sharing what is a remarkable story of Arctic exploration, Bown has added a welcome addition to what is already a rich catalogue of books about the Arctic and maritime exploration."

Rocky Mountain Outlook

"[Bown] has weaved a story which details the highs and lows of one of the greatest expeditions in world history and one which has been largely forgotten by mainstream humanity. Consequently, this book is an opportunity for all to learn about Bering and his contributions to the geographic and scientific knowledge gained as a result of his efforts."?

New York Journal of Books

"Well-written, fast-paced."

Portland Book Review

"'A rip-roaring tale of adventures, hardship, sacrifice, human hubris and - dare I say – madness –... set in inhospitable landscapes and told with breezy energy. Wonderful."

– ANDREA WULF author of The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt's New World

"One of the most significant and harrowing expeditions in the annals of European and American exploration, the Bering voyages remain largely unknown to modern readers. Bering left his name on a sea and a strait, and his naturalist Steller identified dozens of unknown plants and animals in the New World, but perhaps the most inspiring legacy is the remarkable forbearance and human ingenuity employed by the expedition's survivors in the face of scurvy, starvation, and shipwreck. A gifted chronicler of Northern exploration, Stephen Bown tells this incredible tale with grace, authority, and a deep grasp of its significance."

– PETER STARK, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire

"Bown has done an exceptional job in telling the compelling tale of one of the world's greatest and most tragic maritime expeditions ... a largely forgotten story of an incredible Russian seafaring endeavour in the early eighteenth century, as well as the depth of human despair and perseverance in the name of exploration and science."

– JAMES P. DELGADO, author of Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage

"A gripping account of 'the most extensive scientific expedition in history,' whose impressive results were certainly matched by its duration and miseries. A rapidly paced story of adventure 'to be appreciated as a reminder of the power of nature and of the struggle and triumph over disaster...and of the powerful urge to persevere and return home.'"

– Kirkus Reviews