As a youth, Peter Steele crossed the Sahara to map and explore by camel the extinct volcanos of Tibesti, then travelled with a donkey across the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. He also climbed Popocatepetl in Mexico. With his wife, Sarah, a St. George's nurse, Peter Steele also drove overland for six months to Nepal where they worked in a hospital in Kathmandu and explored the western end of the Dhaulagiri Range. In 1967, the couple made a six-month family crossing of Bhutan Himalaya with their two children, under the age of four, giving rise to Steele's memoir, Two and Two Halves to Bhutan. Steele and his wife travelled by bus and train through China, Tibet and India in 1986, across southern Africa from Nairobi to Capetown in 1989, and from Antarctica round Patagonia. Steele has also hitch-hiked in South America with his ten-year-old son, giving rise to an unpublished novel about an unscrupulous doctor he met on the Amazon. Steele's enduring love of wilderness, especially mountains, began with climbs in Britain, the Pyrenees and the Alps. He was Medical Officer to the International Everest Expedition in 1971, giving rise to three books; Doctor on Everest, Medical Care for Mountain Climbers and Medical Handbook for Walkers and Climbers. As a freelancer, he has published more than 200 articles on non-medical subjects in the Medical Post and contributed to Peter Gzowski's Morningside Papers and Writing North.

Born in England on May 5, 1935, he received his MA from Cambridge (UK) and qualified in medicine in 1960 at St. George's Hospital in London. Prior to emigrating from England, Steele supplied the Grenfell flying doctor service in Labrador, travelling the Atlantic coast by snowshoe, dog-team and boat. In 1975 he moved from Bristol to Canada where he has lived primarly in Whitehorse as a family doctor and surgeon. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) and a Life Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He speaks English, French, Spanish and Nepali. His books include The Man Who Mapped the Arctic [reviewed below]. When William Mills, librarian of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, suggested Peter Steele consider writing about Arctic explorer George Back, Steele didn't have much difficulty relating to such an intrepid character. At age 22, George Back served as a seaman on a brig fitted out by Lieutenant John Franklin for his first voyage of discovery to the Arctic waters around Spitzbergen in 1818. Franklin hired George Back back--to accompany him on an overland expedition from Hudson Bay to the Coppermine River--but they were separated in 1919. For five months George Back traversed over 1100 miles on snowshoes, surviving at 40-below temperatures, describing his remarkable Arctic odyssey in his journal. C. Stuart Houston edited Sir George Back's work as Arctic Artist: The Journal and Paintings of George Back, Midshipman with Franklin, 1819-1822 (McGill-Queen's, 1994).


The Man Who Mapped the Arctic: The Intrepid Life of George Back, Franklin's Lieutenant. Raincoast. 2003.

Eric Shipton - Everest and Beyond. London: Constable. 1998. Winner of the Boardman Tasker international prize for mountain literature

Medical Handbook for Walkers and Climbers. London: Constable. 1998.

Atlin's Gold. Prince George: Caitlin Press. 1995.

Far From Help. Seattle: Cloudcap Press. 1991.

Medical Care for Mountain Climbers. London: Heinemann Medical. 1976.

Doctor on Everest. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1972; Vancouver: Raincoast 2005.

Two and Two Halves to Bhutan. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1970.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "Biography" "Medicine" "Outdoors" "Arctic"