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In 1845, the HMS Vanguard under the command of Captain William Caulderson departed England on a voyage of discovery to find a Northwest Passage through the perilous arctic waters separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was never heard from again. Five years later, Captain David Maxwell of the Serapis sets sail to recover the Vanguard and determine the fate of his former commander – and battle demons from his past. Naturalist Embleton Hall, aboard on a scientific mission to catalogue arctic fauna, has demons of his own to face. Together, they journey inexorably forward to a terrible discovery, while their families left home in London face trials of their own.
Through a series of letters, log entries, found documents, and oral histories, readers piece together a tale of physical survival and mental fortitude: a story, ultimately, about the power of stories to make and remake us all.