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Against the Ice

The Classic Arctic Survival Story

Against the Ice Buy Now
Format Paperback Ebook Audiobook
ISBN 978-1-58642-334-6 978-1-58642-335-3 978-1-58642-350-6
Published Jan 11, 2022
Imprint Steerforth Press
Biography & Autobiography - Adventurers & Explorers Biography & Memoir World History

Now a major Netflix film co-written by and starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)

The harrowing, amazing, and often amusing personal account of two mismatched Arctic explorers who banded together to keep themselves sane on an historic expedition gone horribly wrong

Ejnar Mikkelsen was devoted to Arctic exploration. In 1910 he decided to search for the diaries of the ill-fated Mylius-Erichsen expedition, which had set out to prove that Robert Peary’s outline of the East Greenland coast was a myth, erroneous and presumably self-serving. Iver Iversen was a mechanic who joined Mikkelsen in Iceland when the expedition’s boat needed repair.

Several months later, Mikkelsen and Iversen embarked on an incredible journey during which they would suffer every imaginable Arctic travail: implacable cold, scurvy, starvation, frostbite, snow blindness, plunges into icy seawater, impossible sledding conditions, Vitamin A poisoning, debilitated dogs, apocalyptic storms, gaping crevasses, and assorted mortifications of the flesh. Mikkelsen’s diary was even eaten by a bear.

Three years of this, coupled with seemingly no hope of rescue, would drive most crazy, yet the two retained both their sanity as well as their humor.

Indeed, what may have saved them was their refusal to become as desolate as their surroundings…

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who co-adapted the book into a screenplay, provides the foreword to this new edition of the classic exploration memoir, which was one of The Explorer’s Club’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century.

Originally published as Two Against the Ice: A Classic Arctic Survival Story and a Remarkable Account of Companionship in the Face of Adversity. Translated from the Danish by Maurice Michael.


One of the Hundred Best Books of Twentieth-Century Exploration"

-- The Explorer's Club

Readers will be amazed and amused by the way the two explorers keep their spirits about them and downplay the terrifying dangers as though it were all in good fun. Fascinating and fun reading."

-- Booklist

Mikkelsen is an artisan of cold places, and if his labors are mighty and consuming, they are also of love."

-- Kirkus Reviews


Excerpt from the Foreword by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was working as the costume designer on an adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that was being directed by a good friend of mine, Peter Flinth. During filming, she suggested that the memoir Two Against the Ice by Ejnar Mikkelsen would make a great movie. As a good, proud subject, Peter then sent a copy of the book to me. It was 2011, and I was in Bolivia working on a fictional story about what would have happened if Butch Cassidy had lived out his days in the mountains there. Reading Two Against the Ice, I was struck by how reality often is stranger and more extreme than fiction. I have always been attracted to stories of explorers, tales of men and women who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way in the pursuit of adventure and discovery. Mikkelsen’s story grabbed hold of me and did not let go.

At the turn of the previous century, Arctic explorers — alpha males born with incredible self-belief in their abilities to achieve the impossible — traveled to places where nature held no respect for human life. Risking their lives to go where no man had gone before, many of them perished.

What set the story told in Two Against the Ice apart is that it featured two men who were the unlikeliest of companions. Ejnar Mikkelsen, an experienced explorer, ends up with a young mechanic, Iver Iversen, who only joined the expedition to Greenland that Mikkelsen was leading when its original mechanic turned out to be useless and a drunk. Iver had little if any ambition and zero experience in the Arctic.

So, when Mikkelsen needed a volunteer to accompany him on an arduous journey, it was surprising that it was the rookie Iversen who stepped up and threw himself into what he believed would be a few months of adventure.

These few months became three long years during which the two men battled the ice and deadly cold of the Arctic, managing to survive by virtue of companionship, friendship, and an unwavering trust in each other.

Within this book there is a particular moment that made me want to adapt it into a movie. . .

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau


October 2021

About the Author

Ejnar Mikkelsen

Ejnar Mikkelsen (1880-1971) was a veteran of expeditions to Arctic Greenland, Siberia, and Alaska before directing the ill-fated Alabama expedition. Following that ordeal, Mikkelsen continued to lead expeditions to the “earthly paradise” of Greenland in 1925 and 1932. He made his final trip to that same stretch of inhospitable coast in 1964; by this time Greenlanders were addressing him affectionately as “Grandfather.”

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