Letters from High Latitudes

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Letters from High Latitudes, Being Some Account of a Voyage in 1856 in the Schooner Yacht "Foam" to Iceland, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen

By Lord Dufferin

Letters From High Latitudes is a travel book written by Lord Dufferin in 1856, recounting the young lord's journey to Iceland, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen in the schooner Foam.

When Dufferin was only 15 his father died. In consequence he developed a very close relationship with his mother. In the course of the voyage Dufferin created a diary in the form of letters nominally written to his mother. On his return, Lord Dufferin used those letters to write a book about his travels entitled Letters From High Latitudes.

Lord Dufferin commissioned the schooner Foam with the first objective of visiting Iceland. He visited the then-minuscule Reykjavík, the plains of Þingvellir, and Geysir. While Dufferin was at Geysir Prince Napoleon arrived on the yacht Reine Hortense with his entourage. Upon his return to Reykjavík Dufferin was invited to join Prince Napoleon aboard his royal steamer La Reine Hortense. Prince Napoleon offered that the Foam be towed north as the French were on an expedition to the same region. The collier traveling with La Reine Hortense was damaged which required the French to abandon their investigations. Dufferin then set sail for Jan Mayen Island where he had to land by small boat. He wrote that he left a tin of trinkets on the island. From Jan Mayen, the Foam sailed to northern Norway, stopping at Hammerfest, before sailing for Spitzbergen.

With its irreverent style, lively pace, and witty commentary, the book became extremely successful. It can be regarded as the prototype of the comic travelogue. It remained in print for many years with editions published in both the United Kingdom and the United States. A Canadian edition was published while Dufferin was Governor General of Canada. An abridged edition was published under the title A Cruise in Northern Seas. Translations were made into French, German and Urdu.

Despite his book's great success Lord Dufferin did not pursue a career in writing. Instead, he became a diplomat, later serving as British ambassador to Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Subsequently, he was appointed Governor General of Canada and after that term became Viceroy of India. 

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