Author of ‘On the Arctic Frontier’ visits Book Tree

  • Thursday, November 2, 2017 1:30pm
  • Life

As a member of the 1906 Anglo-American Polar Expedition, Arctic explorer Ernest deKoven Leffingwell (1875–1971) helped determine the edge of the continental shelf—the first solid evidence that searching for land north of Alaska was likely futile.

The University of Chicago-trained geologist remained on Flaxman Island, and with assistance from his indigenous neighbors, was the first to define and chart the geography and geology of the region. His groundbreaking work included creating detailed, accurate maps of Alaska’s northeast coast (now part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), pioneering studies of ground ice (permafrost), explaining ice wedges, and identifying the Sadlerochit Formation, Prudhoe Bay oilfield’s main reservoir.

Still, apart from geology specialists, none of it was enough to attract much notice—until Janet R. Collins, who spent thirty years as the director and map librarian at Western Washington University’s Huxley Map Library—decided Leffingwell deserved more recognition.

She started giving presentations about his life, and the interest they generated led to her new biography, “On the Arctic Frontier: Ernest Leffingwell’s Polar Explorations and Legacy”, just published by Washington State University (WSU) Press.

Collins will be at the Book Tree at 609 Market Street on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. for a book signing.

Leffingwell recorded his findings in the 250-page U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 109. To write her biography, Collins utilized that report as well as published and unpublished writing by a variety of polar expedition members, newspaper articles, and Leffingwell family papers and memories.

Along with his accomplishments, she portrays Leffingwell’s interactions with Native friends, whalers, traders, fellow scientists, and others, and conveys his thoughts about daily life with all of its challenges, frustrations, and triumphs.

“On the Arctic Frontier” is paperback, 6” x 9”, 306 pages, and lists for $27.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360, or online at A nonprofit academic publisher associated with WSU in Pullman, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

For more information about the signing, contact 425-202-7791.

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