In a duty-built boat, Jeffrey Tayler traveled some 2,400 miles down the Lena River, from near Lake Baikal to costly above the Arctic Circle, re-creating a journey first made by Cossack forces more than three hundred years ago. He was searching for primeval handsomeness and a respite from the corruption, violence, and self-destructive urges that typify modern Russian culture. His only companion on this hellish passage detests all humanity, including Tayler. Vadim, Tayler's guide, is a burly Soviet army veteran whose unreal skills Tayler needs to survive. As the two navigate roiling white water in howling storms, they eschew lifejackets because the arctic water would kill them before they could swim to shore. Though Tayler has trekked by camel through the Sahara and canoed down the Congo during the uprising against Mobutu, he has never felt as threatened as he does on this trip.