Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: CARS Passage 9 – Exploration

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MP 207: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: CARS Passage 9 – Exploration

Session 207

We’re on CARS practice passage 9 from Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. Join us as we break down this fun passage about exploration, adaptation, and survival.

Once again. we’re joined by Armin from Blueprint MCAT, formerly Next Step Test Prep. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

Get your FREE copy of Blueprint MCAT’s Full-Length 1 to follow along: Go to

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[04:14] Passage 9 (Questions 48 – 53)

Paragraph 1

Until climate change thinned the ice, the Northwest Passage existed as a cautionary tale among navigators rather than a practicable trade route. Henry Hudson was marooned by his own crew while trying to make the journey. In 1845, a British expedition led by Sir John Franklin attempted to navigate the straits northwest of Labrador, the last uncharted stretch of the passage. His two steam-powered crafts, while heavily reinforced and well provisioned, became icebound in the Victoria Strait, and his entire crew of 129 perished.

Note: It gives us a lot of insight that we’re going to be talking about the Northwest Passage. So here, we would probably highlight the climate change, obviously being a big factor of of what is going on here. And the change of this Northwest Passage being bad and then potentially with climate change, making it a little bit easier to travel.

[06:22] Paragraph 2

Scientists have since located the two shipwrecks and recovered artifacts and human remains on King William Island. Forensic investigations have revealed pneumonia to be the leading cause of death, but recovered bones show evidence of scurvy and cannibalism. Furthermore, the crew were suffering from acute lead poisoning from the solder used to seal their ration cans.

Note: The author is mentioning they died of pneumonia, but there were a lot of other problems they were afflicted with.

[07:28] Paragraph 3

Ultimately, the true cause of death was a failure to adopt suitable Arctic survival strategies. Local Inuit encountered Franklin’s crew on a number of occasions. Interactions recorded decades later offer definitive evidence as to the final fate of the expedition. Interviews reveal the Inuit were willing to help but efforts at meaningful communication were fruitless. As far as the Inuit could infer, instead of securing shelter and food, the British attempted to travel south to mainland Canada, an impossible feat without transportation. They wore cotton clothing, ill-suited to the climate, hunted sparse game birds while ignoring the herds of caribou on the island and the seals out on the ice. The strangers cooked their meat, sapping it of vital nutrients. Inuit avoided scurvy by consuming the raw livers and skins of sea animals. Without this practice, they would never have survived for a thousand years on a diet lacking any fresh fruit.

Note: So what’s important here is the failure to adapt. And there were lots of examples of the adaptation, obviously wearing the right clothing, and eating the right food in that specific landscape and environment. The failure to adapt is what led to their demise.

[09:24] Paragraph 4

Inuit technology is also superbly adapted to the Arctic. Igloo-making provides comparative warmth and shelter during nights that can drop well below zero. The thick-furred huskies the Inuit use for sled dogs possess strength and endurance. Combining dog sleds with harpoons allows the Inuit to reach the air holes in the ice used by seals and harvest these calorie-rich animals. While Franklin’s men could never have mastered the Arctic, adopting elements of the Inuit lifestyle could have prolonged survival enough to be rescued.

Note: The author is really talking about new technology. And he doesn’t believe that Franklin could have lived there indefinitely.

[10:24] Paragraph 5

The conquest of Antarctica put Inuit ways to the ultimate test. Less than decade after the first humans set foot on the continent, in 1911 the expeditions of Norwegian Roald Amundsen and British explorer Robert Falcon Scott raced across the southernmost continent in an attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. Five years earlier, Amundsen had actually completed the first successful traversal of the Northwest Passage by a European, a journey during which he learned a great deal about Arctic survival from Netsilik Inuit. In preparation for his South Pole try, Amundsen used these lessons. While he planned to do a great deal of his travel on skis, he had also acquired 100 Greenland sled dogs to haul provisions and constructed clothing and footwear for his crew primarily from furs and skins.

Note: These are just examples here. Previously, we’ve been given examples of failure to adapt. And this is an example of someone who didn’t fail to adapt that led them to be successful.

[12:38] Paragraph 6

Unfortunately, the Scott Expedition chose to use ponies, motorized vehicles, and human muscle power to haul the equipment sledges on the final dash across the Antarctic Plateau. Worse, Scott’s expedition wore wool and cotton clothing, which absorbed moisture and failed to repel the winds. The Norwegian team practically glided to the South Pole and back without incident. Scott and his men, meanwhile, arrived five weeks later and died on the return trip, overcome by fatigue, malnutrition, and exposure.

Note: The main idea of the author here is that adaptation is important, specifically in these Arctic conditions.

[13:45] Question 48

Which of the following does the author suggest about the Northwest Passage?

  1. Sailors shipwrecked along the route faced certain death.
  2. It has become a viable merchant marine route due to climate change.
  3. It is a vital shipping artery between the hemispheres.
  4. Until Amundsen, none could navigate it.

Thought Process:

The author here definitely said if you can adapt, you might survive long enough to be rescued. It’s not certain death, so we’re getting rid of answer choice A. Then there wasn’t any mention of a vital shipping artery between the hemispheres. Obviously, it is a merchant marine route but a vital shipping artery isn’t mentioned. Then D isn’t true because people were navigating it but it was hard. Right off the bat, the author did mention “until climate change” so climate change was helping it become a viable merchant marine route.

Correct Answer: B

[15:21] Question 49

Which of the following best characterizes the author’s opinion regarding the men of the Franklin Expedition?

  1. Their clothing and provisions made survival in the Canadian Arctic impossible.
  2. The sense of cultural superiority that prompted them to reject Inuit ways was directly responsible for their deaths.
  3. They could have lived indefinitely in the arctic had they had adopted parts of the Inuit lifestyle.
  4. Their decisions subsequent to the loss of their ships played a significant role in their ultimate fate.

Reworded Question: Franklin is one of the first ones that came up with the 129 people that perished becoming ice-bound, even though they seem to have prepared with their strengthened boat. So what does the author think about Franklin?

Prediction: The author was talking about being heavily reinforced and well-provisioned, meaning they were well stocked up so seemingly prepared, but still failed. And they failed because they didn’t adapt.

Thought Process:

A – The word “impossible” is an extreme word. Obviously, we know that their cotton-based clothing wasn’t right. We don’t know anything about their provisions, other than that they were well-stocked with provisions. So we’re going to get rid of this answer choice.

B – We don’t know why they rejected the Inuit ways and we don’t know that they thought they were culturally superior. They just know that they wanted to do it their way.

C – This is going back to the author saying they could have survived long enough for rescue, not necessarily live indefinitely. So we’re getting rid of this one too.

D – They were well-prepared going in, they got stuck, and then everything that they decided after that led to them perishing. So it was their inability to adapt.

Correct Answer: D

[18:36] Question 50

The passage most strongly implies that the conquest of the South Pole provided the “ultimate test” of Inuit survival strategies because:

  1. Amundsen’s preparation avoided the use of any western-style technologies or survival techniques.
  2. the consequences of failure in such a hostile environment proved to be fatal.
  3. the continent of Antarctica is not home to any indigenous peoples.
  4. the explorers were motivated by the prestige that would come with reaching the pole first.

Reworded Question: Why was the conquest of the South Pole the ultimate test? 

Thought Process:

A – We’re throwing this one out since we know that they adopted a lot of the Intuit “technologies,” but we don’t know that they didn’t use any western style technologies or survival techniques.

B – People were dying by not using the survival strategies for a long time before that as well.

C – Looking at the fourth paragraph here, it says Inuit technology is also superbly adapted to the Arctic. Let’s go back to the ultimate test, to the area where the author mentions that this is the ultimate test. Paragraph 5 says “Less than a decade after the first humans set foot on the continent.” So no indigenous people.

D – The race and prestige had nothing to do with being the ultimate test. So we’re throwing this out.

Correct Answer: C

[22:39] Question 51

Which of the following is most similar to the discussion of meat preparation in paragraph three?

  1. Removing the vitamin-filled germ layer from brown rice to make white rice
  2. Conventional butcher practices of trimming excess fat from cuts of meat
  3. Processing coffee beans to lower the level of caffeine
  4. The consumption of dairy products to maintain healthy calcium and vitamin D levels

Prediction: We can’t predict most of it but they did talk about the Westerners cooking the meat instead of eating it raw, which robbed it of vital nutrients. The preparation of it actually removed the vital nutrients required for survival. So we’re looking for an answer choice that kind of matches that.

Thought Process:

We’re going to go with A here since the process of preparing it actually removes vital nutrients.

Correct Answer: A

[24:30] Question 52

Based on the information presented in the passage, all of the following contributed to the failure and loss of the Scott Antarctic expedition EXCEPT:

  1. adoption of slower modes of transportation.
  2. failure to appreciate the nutrition content of raw meat.
  3. inability to make use of the innovations of other cultures.
  4. lack of winter clothing produced from water-repellent animal products.

Reworded Question: Since this is an except question, cross out all that caused the Scott Antarctic expedition to fail.

Thought Process:

A – Ponies are slower than sled dogs so it caused them to fail. We’re going to cross this out.

B – They didn’t talk about the food that they ate. They talked about a lot of different things, but not the diets. They did talk about malnutrition. But it could have been for other reasons. They could have consumed raw meat but still died of malnutrition.

C – This was the biggest comparison so we cross this one out.

D – This was specifically called out in the passage.

Correct Answer: B

[26:40] Question 53

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the claims made by the author regarding the ultimate fate of the Franklin expedition?

  1. Interpreters who interviewed Inuit eyewitnesses of the Franklin expedition did not properly understand the language dialect spoken by the witnesses.
  2. The levels of lead in the bodies of Franklin’s crew were insufficient to affect decision-making.
  3. Modern Inuit make use of snowmobiles, electric generators, and manufactured clothing to survive the Arctic.
  4. The first ships to make landfall at the islands where Franklin and his men were stranded would not arrive until 1850.

Reworded Question: Again, the Franklin expedition was that with the 129 crew members who perished trying to go through this Northwest Passage. And this is one of those tricky questions. You’ve got to make sure you’re answering the right question. If true, which would weaken the claims?

Thought Process:

A – Definitive evidence is tainted because of the lack of interpretation and interpreters. So that’s going to weaken the argument.

B – The author never made any conclusions that lead poisoning was why they were making these bad decisions. So we cross this one out.

C – Adapting based on modern technologies doesn’t the fact that the technologies they used back in the day were also sufficient to survive as well. So we get rid of C.

D –  Franklin perished. And prior to his perishing, they got stranded in this Northwest Passage. They could have survived another five years. So this doesn’t weaken the claim.

Correct Answer: A

[31:58] Final Thoughts

Initially, it’s going to take time, but as you build these active reading habits, this is going to become natural. You don’t even have to think about it anymore. You just naturally do it. And this is how you actively read.


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