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Arctic Drift (Dirk Pitt Series #20)

Arctic Drift (Dirk Pitt Series #20)

by Clive Cussler, Dirk Cussler
Arctic Drift (Dirk Pitt Series #20)

Arctic Drift (Dirk Pitt Series #20)

by Clive Cussler, Dirk Cussler


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Oceanographer Dirk Pitt traces a lost ship's mysterious cargo to a scientific discovery that could reverse the dangers of climate change in this novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling action adventure series.

When an act of sabotage aims to slow down a technological breakthrough in American clean energy, it puts the United States on the brink of war with one of its closest allies. Tension boils on the homefront, too, as gas prices surge to an all-time high. To prevent global catastrophe, Dirk Pitt and his children, Dirk Jr. and Summer, must piece together what little records remain of the initial experiment. They may not know how it was done, but they know what their scientists were trying to accomplish: a solution for global warming.  

Their only real clue might just be a mysterious silvery mineral traced to a long-ago expedition in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. But no one survived from that doomed mission. And if Pitt, his family, and his buddy Al Giordino aren't careful, the very same fate may await them…and the world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593189818
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/10/2021
Series: Dirk Pitt Series , #20
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 79,875
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Clive Cussler is the author or coauthor of over fifty previous books in five bestselling series, including Dirk Pitt®, NUMA® Files, Oregon® Files, Isaac Bell, and Sam and Remi Fargo. His nonfiction works include Built for AdventureThe Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt, and Built to Thrill:More Classic Automobiles from Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt, plus The Sea Huntersand The Sea Hunters II; these describe the true adventures of the real NUMA, which, led by Cussler, searches for lost ships of historic significance. With his crew of volunteers, Cussler has discovered more than sixty ships, including the long-lost Confederate ship Hunley. He lives in Colorado and Arizona. 
Dirk Cussler joined his father in writing the Dirk Pitt novels in 2004 with the publication of Black Wind and Treasure of Khan. He has been a team leader in the real-life NUMA expeditions and has served as President of its Board of Trustees. Dirk holds an MBA from Berkeley and lives in Arizona.


Phoenix, Arizona

Date of Birth:

July 15, 1931

Place of Birth:

Aurora, Illinois


Pasadena City College; Ph.D., Maritime College, State University of New York, 1997

Read an Excerpt


April 2011
The Inside Passage
British Columbia

The sixty-foot steel-hulled trawler was what all commercial fishing boats ought to look like but seldom did. Her nets were stowed neatly on their rollers, the deck was free of clutter. The boat's hull and topside were absent of rust and grime, while a fresh coat of paint covered the most weathered areas. Even the boat's worn dock fenders had been regularly scrubbed of grit. While not the most profitable fishing boat plying the northern waters of British Columbia, the Ventura was easily the best maintained.

Her shipshape appearance reflected the character of her owner, a meticulous and hardworking man named Steve Miller. Like his boat, Miller didn't fit the bill of the average independent fisherman. A trauma doctor who'd grown tired of patching up mangled auto accident victims in Indianapolis, he'd returned to the small Pacific Northwest town of his youth to try something different. Possessing a secure bank account and a love of the water, commercial fishing had seemed the perfect fit. Steering the boat through an early morning drizzle now, he wore his happiness in the form of a wide grin.

A young man with shaggy black hair poked his head into the wheelhouse and called to Miller.

"Where they biting today, skipper?" he asked.

Miller gazed out the forward window, then poked his nose up and sniffed the air.

"Well, Bucky, I'd say the west coast of Gil Island, without a doubt," he grinned, taking the bait. "Better grab some shut-eye now, as we'll be reeling them in soon enough."

"Sure, boss. Like, a whole twenty minutes?"

"I'd say closer to eighteen." He smiled, gazing at a nearby nautical chart. He cinched the wheel a few degrees, aiming the bow toward a narrow slot dividing two green landmasses ahead of them. They were cutting across the Inside Passage, a ribbon of protected sea that stretched from Vancouver to Juneau. Sheltered by dozens of pine-covered islands, the winding waterway inspired comparisons to the scenic fjords of Norway.

Only the occasional commercial or tourist fishing boat, casting its lines for salmon or halibut, was found dodging the Alaska-bound cruise ship traffic. Like most independent fishermen, Miller chased after the more valuable sockeye salmon, utilizing purse seine nets to capture the fish near inlets and in ocean waters. He was content to break even with his catches, knowing few got rich fishing in these parts. Yet despite his limited experience, he still managed a small profit due to his planning and enthusiasm. Sipping a mug of coffee, he glanced at a flush-mounted radar screen. Spotting two vessels several miles to the north, he let go of the wheel and walked outside the pilothouse to inspect his nets for the third time that day. Satisfied there were no holes in the mesh, he climbed back to the bridge.

Bucky was standing by the rail, forgoing his bunk for a cigarette instead. Puffing on a Marlboro, he nodded at Miller, then looked up at the sky. An ever-present blanket of gray clouds floated in an airy mass yet appeared too light to dispense more than a light drizzle. Bucky peered across Hecate Strait at the green islands that bound it to the west. Ahead off the port bow, he noticed an unusually thick cloud rolling along the water's surface. Fog was a common companion in these waters, but there was something peculiar about this formation. The color was a brighter white than that of a normal fogbank, its billows heavier. Taking a long drag on his cigarette, Bucky exhaled deeply, then walked to the wheelhouse.

Miller had already taken note of the white cloud and had a pair of binoculars trained on the mist.

"You seen it too, boss? Kind of a funky-looking cloud, ain't it?" Bucky drawled.

"It is. I don't see any other vessels around that could have discharged it," Miller replied, scanning the horizon. "Might be some sort of smoke or exhaust that drifted over from Gil."

"Yep, maybe somebody's fish smoker blew," the deckhand replied, his crooked teeth in a wide grin.

Miller set down the binoculars and grabbed the wheel. Their path around Gil Island led directly through the center of the cloud. Miller rapped his knuckles on the worn wooden wheel in uneasiness, but he made no effort to alter course.

As the boat approached the cloud's periphery, Miller stared at the water and crinkled his brow. The color of the water changed visibly, from green to brown to copper-red. A number of dead salmon appeared in the crimson broth, their silver bellies pointing skyward. Then the fishing boat chugged into the haze.

The men in the wheelhouse immediately felt a change in temperature, as if a cold, wet blanket had been thrown over them. Miller felt a dampness in his throat while tasting a strong acidic flavor. A tingling sensation rippled through his head, and he felt a sudden tightening in his chest. When he sucked in a breath of air, his legs buckled, and stars began to appear before his eyes. His pain was diverted when the second deckhand burst into the cabin with a shriek.

"Captain...I'm suffocating," gasped the man, a ruddy-faced fellow with long sideburns. The man's eyes bulged from his head, and his face was tinted a dark shade of blue. Miller took a step toward him, but the man fell to the deck unconscious.

The cabin started to spin before Miller's eyes as he made a desperate lunge for the boat's radio. In a blur, he noticed Bucky sprawled flat on the deck. With his chest constricting tightly, Miller grasped at the radio, scooping up the transmitter while knocking over some charts and pencils. Pulling the transmitter to his mouth, he tried to call a Mayday, but the words refused to leave his lips. Falling to his knees, he felt like his entire body was being crushed on an anvil. The constriction tightened as blackness slowly crept over his vision. He fought to stay conscious but felt himself slipping into the void. Miller struggled desperately, then let out a final deep gasp as the icy hand of death beckoned him to let go.


Catch is aboard," Summer Pitt shouted toward the wheelhouse. "Take us to the next magic spot."

The tall, lithe oceanographer stood on the open stern deck of the research boat, dressed in a turquoise rain jacket. In her hands, she reeled in a polypropylene line wrapped around the spool of a mock fishing pole. The line stretched to the end of a guided rod where her prize catch dangled in the breeze. It wasn't a fish but a gray plastic tube called a Niskin bottle, which allowed seawater samples to be collected at depth. Summer carefully grabbed the bottle and stepped toward the pilothouse as the inboard motors suddenly revved loudly beneath the deck. The abrupt propulsion nearly threw her off her feet as the workboat leaped forward.

"Easy on the acceleration," she yelled, finally making her way into the cabin.

Seated behind the wheel, her brother turned and chuckled.

"Just wanted to keep you on your toes," Dirk Pitt replied. "That was a remarkable imitation of a drunken ballerina, I might add."

The comment only infuriated Summer more. Then she saw the humor in it all and just as quickly laughed it off.

"Don't be surprised to find a bucket of wet clams in your bunk tonight," she said.

"As long as they're steamed with Cajun sauce first," he replied. Dirk eased the throttle back to a more stable speed, then eyed a digital navigation chart on a nearby monitor.

"That was sample 17-F, by the way," he said.

Summer poured the water sample into a clear vial and wrote down the designation on a preprinted label. She then placed the vial in a foam-lined case that contained a dozen other samples of seawater. What had started as a simple study of plankton health along the south Alaska coastline had grown in scope when the Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Department had gotten wind of their project and asked if they could continue their assessment down to Vancouver. Besides cruise ships, the Inside Passage also was an important migratory route for humpbacks, grays, and other whales that attracted the attention of marine biologists. The microscopic plankton was a key to the aquatic food chain as it attracted krill, a primary food source for baleen whales. Dirk and Summer realized the importance of obtaining a complete ecological snapshot of the region and had obtained approval to expand the research project from their bosses at the National Underwater and Marine Agency.

"How far to the next collection point?" Summer asked, taking a seat on a wooden stool and watching the waves roll by.

Dirk peered at the computer monitor again, locating a small black triangle at the top of the screen. A HYPACK software program marked the previous collection sites and plotted a route to the next sample target.

"We have about eight miles to go. Plenty of time for a bite before we get there." He kicked open a cooler and pulled out a ham sandwich and a root beer, then tweaked the wheel to keep the boat on track.

The forty-five-foot aluminum workboat skimmed over the flat waters of the passage like a dart. Painted turquoise blue like all National Underwater and Marine Agency research vessels, it was fitted with cold-water dive gear, marine survey equipment, and even a tiny ROV for underwater videotaping. Creature comforts were minimal, but the boat was the perfect platform for performing coastal research studies.

Dirk swung the wheel to starboard, giving wide berth to a gleaming white Princess Lines cruise ship headed in the opposite direction. A handful of topside tourists waved heartily in their direction, whom Dirk obliged by waggling his arm out a side window.

"Seems like one goes by every hour," Summer remarked.

"More than thirty vessels run the passage in the summer months, so it does seem like the Jersey Turnpike."

"You've never even laid eyes on the Jersey Turnpike."

Dirk shook his head. "Fine. Then it seems like Interstate H-1 in Honolulu at rush hour."

The siblings had grown up in Hawaii, where they developed a passion for the sea. Their single mother fostered an early interest in marine biology and encouraged both children to learn to dive at a young age. Fraternal twins who were both athletic and adventurous, Dirk and Summer spent much of their youth on or near the water. Their interest continued into college, where both studied ocean sciences. They somehow ended on opposite coasts, Summer obtaining an advanced degree from Scripps Institute while Dirk garnered a graduate degree in marine engineering from New York Maritime College.

It was on their mother's deathbed that they first learned the identity of their father, who ran the National Underwater and Marine Agency and shared the same name as Dirk. An emotional reunion led to a close relationship with the man they had never known. They now found themselves working under his tutelage in the special projects department of NUMA. It was a dream job, enabling them to travel the world together, studying the oceans and solving some of the never-ending mysteries of the deep.

Dirk kept the throttle down as they passed a fishing boat headed north, then pulled up a quarter mile later. As the boat approached the designated target, he killed the engines and drifted over the position. Summer walked to the stern and rigged her fishing line with an empty vial as a pair of Dall's porpoises broke the surface nearby and eyed the boat with curiosity.

"Watch out for Flipper when you cast that thing," Dirk said, walking onto the deck. "Beaning a porpoise brings bad karma."

"How about beaning your brother?"

"Much, much worse." He smiled as the marine mammals ducked under the surface. He scanned the surrounding waters, waiting for them to resurface, when he noticed the fishing boat again. She had gradually changed course and was now turning south. Dirk noted that it sailed on a circular course and would soon bear down on his own craft.

"You better make it quick, Summer. I don't think this guy is watching where he's going."

Summer glanced at the approaching boat, then tossed the water vial over the side. The weighted apparatus quickly sank into the murk as a dozen feet of loose line was let out. When the line drew taut, Summer jerked it, causing the inverted vial to flip over and fill with subsurface water. Reeling in the line, she looked toward the fishing boat. It continued to turn in a lazy arc barely a hundred feet away, its bow easing toward the NUMA vessel.

Dirk had already returned to the wheelhouse and hit a button on the cowl. A honking blast erupted from a pair of trumpeted air horns mounted on the bow. The loud bellow echoed across the water but incited no reaction from the fishing boat. It continued to turn lazily toward a rendezvous with the research boat.

Dirk quickly fired up the engine and shoved the throttle forward as Summer finished pulling in the water sample. With a quick surge, the boat knifed to port a few yards, then slowed as the fishing boat edged by just a few feet away.

"Doesn't look like anyone is on the bridge," Summer shouted. She saw Dirk hang up the radio transmitter.

"I get no reply on the radio," he confirmed with a nod. "Summer, come take the wheel."

Summer rushed into the cabin and stowed the water sample, then slid into the pilot's seat.

"You want to get aboard?" she asked, gauging her brother's intent.

"Yes. See if you can match speed with her, then bring us alongside."

Summer chased after the fishing boat, following in its wake, before pulling up alongside. She could tell that the fishing boat was traveling in ever-widening circles, then looked in alarm at its projected path. A widening arc along with a peaking flood tide was driving it in a loop toward Gil Island. In just a few minutes, the boat would reach the fringe of the island and rip its hull out on the rocky shoreline.

"Better act quick," she yelled to her brother. "She'll be on the rocks in no time."

Dirk nodded and motioned with his hand to bring the boat closer. He had scrambled onto the bow and hunched with his feet over the low side railing. Summer held steady for a moment, getting a feel for the other boat's speed and turning radius, then inched closer. When she pulled within two feet of the other boat, Dirk leaped, landing on the deck beside a net roller. Summer instantly pulled away, then follwed the fishing boat a few yards behind.

Scrambling past the nets, Dirk headed straight for the fishing boat's wheelhouse, where he found a scene of horror. Three men were sprawled on the deck, a look of agony etched on their faces. One of the men stared through open, glassy eyes and oddly clutched a pencil with a frozen hand. Dirk could tell by their gray pallor that the men were dead, but he quickly checked for pulses all the same. He noted curiously that the bodies were unmarked, with no visible blood or open wounds. Finding no signs of life, he grimly took the wheel and straightened the boat's course, calling Summer over the radio to follow him. Shaking off a chill, he anxiously piloted the vessel toward the nearest port, silently wondering what had killed the men lying dead at his feet.

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