- Hardcover: 334 pages
- Publisher: Greystone Books (25 September 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781771644419
- ISBN-13: 978-1771644419
- ASIN: 1771644419
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 680 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time Hardcover – 25 Sep 2018
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About the Author
Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous television programs and films, from Monty Python to A Fish Called Wanda. He is also an acclaimed author, documentary filmmaker, and explorer. A former president of the Royal Geographical Society, his journeys have taken him to the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, and Brazil. He lives in London, England.
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In fact this book isn't actually about Franklin's voyage; it's about his ship. That ship--called Erebus--had an extensive career before its fatal trip to Canada, and most of the book is about that earlier history. This part of the book is filled with details about its officers and men, and their friends, and their wives and their wives' friends, and thus with a lot of talk about obscure personalities that no one cares about. There is also quite a lot of blather about the author's own visits to places that were once visited by Erebus, such as--surprisingly--Tasmania, which is a long way from Canada. Some people might be interested in the author's travel experiences, but I was not.
Finally in the last one-fourth of the book we come to Franklin's voyage. But then there isn't much to be said about it, because there are no logbooks and so little is known. Instead we have a review of the many voyages that went in search, first with the idea of rescue, and later just to find out what happened. This is the most interesting part of the book, but there isn't much that isn't already well-known and familiar. And although the prose is fluent, it seems superficial, and lacking in incisive detail.
Readers are warned that if you get the Kindle version, the maps are too small to be of any use.
This work is a little bit different, because it doesn’t focus on the Franklin Expedition, but upon the flagship of that expedition, the HMS Erebus. It describes the work done to convert it into a polar exploration vessel and then spends a majority of its pages describing its first and most successful voyage, the Ross “discovery” and exploration of the waters surrounding the continent of Antarctica. It then proceeds to the Franklin Expedition and the subsequent efforts made to find and rescue its participants. It culminates with the recent discovery of the sunken vessel.
The author of this book is Michael Palin, a renowned member of the British comedy troupe, Monty Python. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Palin is a very good writer. The book is well researched and presented. Palin intersperses the history with vignettes concerning his visits to many of the ports visited by Erebus, including its final resting place. All in all, a very commendable piece of work and entertaining as well.
It made a great companion to my watching of "The Terror" miniseries earlier this year.
Palin's writing is entertaining, engaging, knowledgeable, and personal.
Part biography of a ship, part narrative of British exploits at the poles in the 19th century, and part personal travelogue, Palin draws on and synthesizes a wealth of literature on the HMS Erebus's role in the successful Ross and doomed Franklin expeditions, brought to life with a generous use of first-person accounts from memoirs and personal letters.
What really separates this book from others about the Erebus or the Franklin expedition is the deeply personal connection that Palin has to many of the locales described in the book, given his own extensive travels, and an empathy for the noted explorers, the ordinary seaman, and the families of the participants, as well as absolutely fantastic descriptions of the places.
I listened to the audiobook and Palin's narration is wonderful.
Definitely adding to my personal library.
The book documents attempts at finding the South magnetic pole and Northwest Passage culminating in loss of the Erebus and companion ship Terror in a third Arctic expedition in 1846. As we now know, neither goal was achieved, but many useful discoveries were made. Land and ice field discoveries in Antarctica set the stage for the better known expeditions of Scott and Amundsen. The Shackleton expedition is not mentioned.
The book culminates in the poignant efforts to find out what happened. With notebooks found years after disappearance, bodies discovered in 1984, and the remains of the Erebus and Terror in 2014 and 2016 respectively. It’s personalized with the lives of the government officials, botanists and sailors as well as Jane Franklin, wife of the lost captain, responsible for perpetuating his memory. It’s the first history I’ve read in a long time that tells me 100% that I didn’t know beforehand. Kudos to author Palin for well written research.
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