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The narrator Robert Walton prepares for his travels by reading various literature on the places that he wants to go to. He also prepares himself y gathering the approproite clothing and materials needed for a journey that will take him to the Arctic.
Walton is a well off Englishman. He has a passion for exploration, which at that time, meant sea voyages. Walton is captain of a ship entering a very dangerous voyage to the North Pole. No, it isn't to look for Santa Clause. He describes a burning desire to accomplish "some great purpose". More specifically he wants to discover a northern passage to the Pacific, revealing the source of the Earth’s magnetism, or simply setting foot on undiscovered territory.