Growing up in Connecticut, graduating from Brown University before earning a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado in 1971; you’d be remiss if you thought Jon Turk would go on to live an ordinary life.
Instead, he’s travelled across the globe, kayaked across the North Pacific, mountain biked through the Gobi desert and, in 2011, circumnavigated Ellesmere Island with his friend Erik Boomer in search of sanity and what he calls his true ecstasy.
In his new memoir, Crocodiles and Ice: A Journey into Deep Wild, Turk takes readers through his award-winning polar expedition as well as other less known passages while telling the story of his lifelong journey and passion for the deep wild.
“The central theme around this book is my Ellesmere expedition, which won all kinds of awards and National Geographic Top 10 Adventure of the Year and all that,” he said. “I talk about the journey into deep wilderness and what is in us in our Aboriginal ancestry that can lead us into ecstasy. This becomes a personal journey, but hopefully if the book is read correctly, it becomes a journey that society can take towards a more meaningful existence.”
After graduating from university, Turk said he was not content living a life under florescent lights, studying organic chemistry in a lab.
“At first, there were no spiritual overtones to it,” he said. “I just found that sex, drugs and rock and roll, and driving motorcycles was more fun than getting good grades.”
Instead, he was fascinated by the way pioneer navigators went into the forest, cut down trees two metres in diameter with a stone axe, and made canoes that sailed across the ocean. It was this power, he said, that he also wanted to harness.
“Once you understand that power that we have within us, then I wanted to tap into that power within myself and see where it got me,” he said.
Turk describes the memoir as a classic narrative where he takes a physical and emotional journey to find a compassionate home in a world that doesn’t make sense. For him, this journey took him to places such as Siberia for the better part of five years in addition to mountains, oceans, icefields and, yes, even prison.
He said what he hopes people are able to take away from the memoir is the ability to find their own passion in life, whatever that may be.
“Whatever your personal path to ecstasy is, that’s the path you have to take,” he said. “I understand the book is about these extreme adventures and I understand that a lot of people don’t want to go to Ellesmere Island and freeze to death on the ice; that my way isn’t the way or the only way and it’s just one way of many paths to finding your ecstasy.”
The official book launch will be on September 15th in Fernie. Those interested in purchasing online are able to pick up the book at Amazon and Indigo books as well. Personally autographed copies are also available on his website for purchase at www.jonturk.net.