At the age of 16 Ballantyne went to Canada and was six years in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. His rule in writing, being in every case, was to write as far as possible from personal knowledge of the scenes he described.
In this book he details the lives of the crew as they must overwinter in the frozen north including their meetings with Eskimos and bears and their struggles with disease. This is a realistic account of what life was like for the explorers of the Arctic. (summary by Esther, adapted from wikipedia)