Arctic Adventures Discourse- extend to the East

One may find that the key word “Arctic adventures” is frequently associated with “travelers”, “rescue”, “dangers”, “survival”, “heroism”, “northern lights”, “ice” and “coldness” in the catalog of popular but traditional Arctic literature or visual text in the west and Russia. However, improvement in transport technologies provides immediate travel to the Arctic, particularly China. China has been viewed as an observer-member in the Arctic Council and has openly expressed keen interest in the Arctic resources and global warming in both real works and declarations. Study on the discourse of the Arctic literature in the east should therefore be encouraged to understand the Eastern perspective concerning the Arctic to facilitate policies-making.

To begin with, the origin and certain features of traditional successful adventurous Arctic stories are to be enumerated. Since the 1800’s when the European empires were seeing the Arctic as a land of discovery, the Arctic had attracted tourists, who were anglers, hunters, mountaineers, and adventurers for exotic wildlife experiences in remote regions.  Their “adventures” have become the model of popular guide books for future Arctic tourists.


Typical popular Arctic adventure stories were highly dominant in the genre of British and American expedition narratives from the 19th century – Post-romantic era. The heroes are featured as physically daring.  Man, is the central figure and the author was most definitely a white male. In the contemporary context, a hero figure is not simply a physical strong male person, but also can be a female and one with high moral standards and ethics.

The dominant use of illustration in the narratives to appeal this sub-genre has been a selling point to “the general reader,” who did not have much knowledge about the Arctic. They are mostly in the forms of para-textual additions such as personal journals, meteorological journals and sketches and gave a more vivid picture of the places the explorers encountered during their adventure, even though some were declared by authors as fictional or intentionally omitted by the readers for entertainment.


Concerning discursive theories and practices of the cultural representation in the Arctic Narratives after enlightenment period, four theories were dominant: Edward Said’s Orientalism related to Imperialism; Micahel Foucault’s language and power; Laclau and Mouffe’s development of a theory of changeable discourse and Mikhail Bakhtin’s multidimensionality of discourses.  For the early works, Arctic Adventure genre is explicitly asserting the dominant position of the Anglo-Saxon ‘race’ over ‘the other’ following the popularizing of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and is based on a Eurocentric. As genres are continuously changing in accordance to the changes in cultural values and industry economics, people do view narratives of a type with certain expectations and a coherent value-laden narrative system. Arctic adventure narrative is or should not only understood simply heroism and non-fictional in Arctic exploration by the European Whites, but also in imagination and re-imagination with literary, technological and political elements and spiritual ideals, particularly in the East.

One of the best examples refers to the documentary-film, Xtreme Marathon (極地狂奔), which is a modern Arctic adventurous tourist narrative made by local Hong Kong TVB television company.  One of the stories is about an Arctic experience of a Hong Kong actor, Oscar Leung, in a polar marathon in April of 2013 and narrates his participation in eco-tourism in Longyearbyen in Svalbard of Norway. Though the hero is not quite successful in the end of the adventure, he reflects how his soul gets awoken by the harmonic human-nature relationship in the Arctic and how the Arctic adventure could be a proudness of claiming an identity of Hong Kong SAR in the North Pole.


Text: Text: Mo Yong Xin