Author Freda Mellenthin, (formerly Freda Starck), was born into a traditional, German-Baltic family, who had been living for generations in the Hanseatic town of Riga on the Baltic Sea, the capital of Latvia. Due to the Second World War her family was displaced, spending the war years in Poland and fleeing under drastic conditions to Germany in 1945, where she went to school. In 1956 she graduated from a German secondary school and subsequently completed a two-year technical agricultural sciences program.
Freda was always an adventure-driven and sport-minded person, enjoying gymnastics, hiking, climbing, biking, skiing and swimming. In her teens she learned to love nature and wilderness camping while hiking through many European countries with members of a post-war youth organization.
In 1958 she immigrated to Canada and married a year later. At the age of forty-two, when her four children had become more independent, she started attending Simon Fraser University and received a bachelor of arts with a French major and then a professional teaching certificate. Subsequently she taught French Immersion in the public school system. In 1991, she was widowed after thirty-two years of marriage. Three years later, she volunteered for six months to teach languages in a secondary school in Russia.
In October 1998 Freda met Ted Mellenthin, a like-minded person, who introduced her to whitewater canoeing. He also enticed her to accompany him on canoeing expeditions into the Canadian Arctic. The pair married after their first canoe trip into the tundra in 1999 and since then have undertaken ten canoe trips north of the sixtieth parallel, among many other canoe and kayak trips. Ted and Freda live in the Mission area in British Columbia on rural property.
Freda hopes her book will teach older people that it is never too late to start something new and daring.
I am grateful to several people for bearing with me on this project. But first of all I must thank my husband Ted. It was a great risk for him to take me, a novice paddler, to the North, to trust my ability and to believe in my physical strength.
I am grateful to my daughter Elke Starck for proofreading my manuscript and telling me that it was worthwhile reading. I have to thank Jan Westendorp for the design of the book and for her openness and professional advice. I am also grateful to Ingo Holst for making the maps. He patiently incorporated all my requests and also came up with the idea to draw a canoe at each launching point and a flag at each take-out spot. Finally I must thank my editor Naomi Pauls for helping me to put the finishing touches to my text. In a very sensitive manner she refined some of my wording and encouraged me in her subtle way.
I never realized that writing a book would be such hard work and I hope that all my readers, including those who are not familiar with canoeing, will enjoy the stories.