Down the Great Unknown

Down the Great Unknown

John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon

Book - 2001
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Baker & Taylor
Draws on the journals of the great explorer of the Grand Canyon to offer a detailed account of his meticulous, often perilous journey through the famous canyon.


Drawing on rarely examined diaries and journals, Down the Great Unknown is the first book to tell the full, dramatic story of the Powell expedition.

On May 24, 1869 a one-armed Civil War veteran, John Wesley Powell and a ragtag band of nine mountain men embarked on the last great quest in the American West. The Grand Canyon, not explored before, was as mysterious as Atlantisand as perilous. The ten men set out from Green River Station, Wyoming Territory down the Colorado in four wooden rowboats. Ninety-nine days later, six half-starved wretches came ashore near Callville, Arizona.

Lewis and Clark opened the West in 1803, six decades later Powell and his scruffy band aimed to resolve the West’s last mystery. A brilliant narrative, a thrilling journey, a cast of memorable heroesall these mark Down the Great Unknown, the true story of the last epic adventure on American soil.

Book News
John Wesley Powell (1834-1903), a Civil War veteran who had lost an arm at Shiloh, was a geology professor and amateur explorer, with little knowledge of the West. But he was also a natural leader, and in 1869, despite little government support, he set out with a crew of nine men none of whom had ever run a rapid on the first expedition to explore the Grand Canyon. Drawing from diaries, journals, and letters of Powell and his crew, Dolnick describes this 99-day, 1,000 mile journey, a tale which makes today's river runners shake their head in disbelief. Dolnick is the former chief science writer at the Boston Globe . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

The great explorer of the Grand Canyon speaks from the past in his journals, guiding readers on a detailed account of his meticulous, often perilous journey thorugh the famous canyon. 75,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060196196
Branch Call Number: 917.913 D757d
Characteristics: viii, 367 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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maplesugarkat Sep 27, 2011

Fabulous river expedition, Jon Krakauer would love it since these guys in 1869 went kayaking down Grand Canyon without knowing how to boat, and John Wesley Powell only had one arm (lost the other at Shiloh). Great read, you find out how to best drown in rapids.


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