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Reading: choose the best answer to each question that follows the passage.
The Arctic has some of the most dangerous weather conditions in the world. In this interview with National Geographic News, explorer Benedict Allen describes his attempt to cross the Bering Strait with only a dogsled team.
Ice Dogs Explorer on Siberia-to-U.S. Dogsled Attempt
for National Geographic Ultimate Explorer November 7, 2003
National Geographic News (NGN): You have a long background in exploration, but this was something new. What drew you to the Arctic?
Benedict Allen: My technique is to live with local people and learn their skills, because the places others see as exotic or scary they see as home. In the Gobi, I learned to travel with camels and had an extraordinary amount of freedom in a place which should have perhaps killed me. I thought, ‘Can I carry it further? Can I go to perhaps the most extreme place, the Arctic, and survive there with the help of dogs?’
NGN: You spent months living and traveling with local Chukchi people in Siberia who taught you about handling a dog team and surviving the Arctic. What was life like among people who herd reindeer and hunt walrus and seals?
Allen: I was trying to hone in immediately on their ability with dogs, but I was also struck with how they seemed to read the landscape so easily. It can be terribly disorienting in a blizzard that’s come from nowhere. Yet the local people had grown up in this place where the line between life and death is so fine. They knew when bad winds were coming and so on. That’s what struck me first.
But perhaps above all I was struck by their ability to deal mentally with harsh conditions. They were always making jokes. There is a danger when you’re stuck in a blizzard, when you don’t know where you are and it’s minus 40° Fahrenheit, . . . that you can sort of turn in on yourself. You can begin feeling sorry for yourself, and you just want to go to sleep and forget the numbing cold. The Chukchi were always getting me to jump about and have a good laugh. They made me keep moving, keep thinking and be positive. For example, they once started lighting distress flares during a blizzard, and I was thinking, ‘My God, I’m trusting them as guides and they are firing flares where we have no hope of being rescued.’ But it was all about having fun, just a bit of fireworks to keep things light.
NGN: Did they think you were a bit crazy?
Allen: They did, especially because I was such a total beginner. They couldn’t understand why I was aiming to be out there in the Bering Strait alone. They don’t go on expeditions alone, and they couldn’t see the point of it. They were also doubtful that I’d gain enough skills over two or three months to cope alone for even a day. Maybe they’re right [that the trip was crazy.] Lots of people in our culture can’t see the ‘why’ either. In the end, only certain sorts of people feel that they want to push themselves to the limit.
NGN: What did you first think of the dogs?
Allen: I knew I’d have to prove myself to the Chukchis, but I found that the dogs were not going to obey me until I’d earned their respect. I hadn’t expected that, and it was quite startling. You don’t have to prove yourself to a pet dog, but these dogs are tough creatures—they knew the rules of the Arctic. It was humbling to see how adept they were out there. Top Dog, the lead dog, really ignored me for six weeks. He ran, but didn’t heed my commands to turn right or left.
NGN: The dogs’ owner was delayed in a blizzard. So you never learned the dogs’ names or the team’s unique commands. How did you get them to work with you?
Allen: Yasha and Tolia, the Chukchis who were with me, helped enormously. I knew little except that the front dogs were probably the top dogs and that the key was probably finding the alpha male and getting his respect. That meant going out to the tundra, getting to know the dogs, and getting them to see me as important in their lives. For example, when I fed them I was talking to them all the time, reminding them I was the provider. I’d walk up and down the lines of the dogs making them get out of my way to show that I was the boss. It’s simply to do with a sense of who’s in charge.
The Arctic is a terribly tough and dangerous environment. Their respect is all to do with whether they feel safe in your hands. They knew the landscape. They could smell things that I couldn’t like bears and open water. Gradually, I did get them on my side, and they would override their fears and trust me.
The greatest feeling was the dogs allowing me to have the kind of freedom, in that environment, that I’d had in the desert with camels. My biggest fear was that one day I was going to be alone, and they might desert me out there when the chance came. It sounds a bit anthropomorphic, but you’re aware of these dogs assessing you all the time—especially the lead dog who wanted to know what I was doing with his pack.
NGN: During your expedition, those fears were nearly realized. While scouting a route forward through the jumbled ice pack, you lost the team and spent a dangerous night out alone on the ice not knowing if you’d ever find them again. How did that experience change your journey?
Allen: I remember turning on the camera and giving sort of an update, but thinking to myself: ‘This could be a death sentence.’ I needed my dogs.
No one in the world knew where I was, and it was reinforced to me how dependent we were upon each other. When I found them [still] waiting for me the next morning, I knew that they would go to the end of the world for me—and that feeling was the most important achievement. More important than any specific feat was the trust of these individuals who allowed me to see this place as a sort of home.
I thought that these dogs deserved to get back to their home. In the end, I was responsible for their lives, and I was absolutely determined that I would come back with these ten characters. More or less right then I decided to turn around with them and go back.
NGN: Your experience might have been quite different if you’d crossed successfully with no such incident.
Allen: I wondered about that afterwards. I thought, ‘What would I have come away with if I’d crossed without that happening?’ A personal satisfaction, but it might have been a rather empty reward for a long journey.
One way or another, each dog in his own way played a part, and I just thought, ‘This is such a treasure, this team.’ You got to know their strengths and weaknesses and you had the feeling that they knew yours as well. Saying goodbye to those ten characters was absolutely devastating.
In paragraph 4, which of the following best explains what the phrase “to read the landscape” means?
to recognize different seasons
to ask about the wilderness
to wonder about the terrain
to understand the environment
Based on the interview, how did Allen prepare himself for his Arctic exploration?
by experiencing how natives survive
by talking with other explorers
by visiting areas with similar climates
by gathering information from books
Based on the interview, which of the following best explains why the sled dogs were essential to Allen’s survival?
The dogs would protect Allen from predators.
The dogs were knowledgeable and swift in the Arctic.
Allen knew the dogs would keep him warm on cold nights.
Allen knew they would provide comfort for his loneliness.
What does Allen’s calling the dogs “characters” in paragraph 17 show about his relationship with them?
Allen liked that the dogs were always playful.
Allen believed that the dogs were ill-trained.
Allen thought he was superior to the dogs.
Allen viewed the dogs as distinct personalities.
Based on the interview, why does Allen feel he succeeded even though he failed?
Allen felt rewarded through his relationship with the dogs.
Allen made better progress than any other explorer.
Allen learned how to read the terrain while crossing the Arctic.
Allen learned how to overcome the danger of extremely cold weather.
Based on the interview, which of the following best explains why Allen explored remote areas of the world?
to experience new challenges
to get his name in the paper
to study native animals
to sell his stories and make money
How does the question-and-answer style of the interview benefit the reader?
The writer can interpret how Allen feels.
The reader gets information in Allen’s own words.
The reader anticipates how Allen will answer.
The writer can explain Allen’s ideas to the reader.
is derived from the Latin
, meaning “to lay waste.” Which of the following most nearly means the same as the word
as it is used in paragraph 20?
I knew little except that the front dogs were probably the top dogs and that the key was probably finding the
male and getting his respect.
Read the sentence from the interview in the box above. What does
the lowest ranked
the highest ranked
According to the interview, how did Allen gain the trust of those dogs?
He hit the dogs with a whip.
He walked up and down the lines of the dogs to show he was the boss.
He patted the dogs with his hands.
He ate and slept with the dogs.
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