I first read the novel The Iceberg Hermit, by
Arthur Roth, when I was about 12 years old. I really enjoyed it and I've
read it several more times over the years.
The novel, which is based on a true story, is about a teenage boy named Allan Gordon in the year 1757. Allan is working as a sailor on his first whaling ship. The ship hits an iceberg and Allan is thrown from his perch in the crow's nest onto the iceberg. The ship turns upside down and the rest of the crew is drowned in the freezing water. Allan is the only survivor.
He is stranded on an iceberg for about two years before finally attempting to hike across the ice floes to dry land. He eventually does find land and ends up living with a group of Eskimos for nearly five more years before he is finally rescued by another European whaling ship.
Throughout the novel there are passages regarding Allan's use of various tools in his effort to beat the elements and stay alive on the iceberg. But one of the more interesting passages about wood is from Allan's time with the Eskimos.
"One task that Allan loved was to search the shores of the sea for driftwood, a job that the women usually did. Wood was a very valuable item for the whole camp. Straight pieces could be used to make harpoon handles, or lance shafts, or worked to make the runners or cross slats of a sled. Long curved pieces could be used in making the frame of a summer tent, although whale ribs were also used for that purpose. Wood was so precious, in fact, that it was never burned or thrown away. Even tiny leftover pieces were saved, to be carved into toys for the children: dolls for the little girls and play tools and weapons for the boys."