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Salt Water and Spear Tips Paperback – 30 Jan 2020
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"When Danish explorer and filmmaker Thor F. Jensen set out to complete the world’s first circumnavigation of New Guinea in a traditional sailing canoe, he wanted adventure. And that’s exactly what he got. Travelling 6,300 km through treacherous seas over 13 months and 21 days starting in 2016, Jensen braved the brutality of the ocean (and the fear of local pirates), made lifelong friends (in master sailors Sanakoli John, Justin John and Job Siyae), embraced Papua New Guinean culture (including receiving a traditional ‘spell’ for safe travels from an old man who had lost most of his teeth), and fell in love (with an Aussie anthropologist he met along the way). You will hold your breath from the very first chapter of Salt Water and Spear Tips; like Jensen did when he fell overboard at the start of the voyage after the canoe unexpectedly hit a wave and knocked his balance – drowning his iPhone and resulting in a stern lecture from his fellow sailors. “I was reassured to see the sailors didn’t want to lose the dim dim [white person] on the second day of the voyage,” Jensen writes, with his trademark sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour. The adventurer tells his story with brutal honesty, capturing PNG in all its glory: the flaws and beauty. It’ll make you want to embrace your inner explorer and book a trip to PNG. Or, at least, watch the Shailene Woodley sailing drama Adrift from the comfort of your couch. Either way, adventure awaits."
Marie Clair Australia - https://www.marieclaire.com.au/best-books-2020?fbclid=IwAR0t4fVBslMYDPqzv3XIDkLlFmIMTbT7-1wxedNoczuo74nvdFLUABetBuA
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In August 2016 that was just what Danish adventure filmmaker Thor F. Jensen did. The result – a remarkable expedition book – Salt Water and Spear Tips: The World’s First Circumnavigation of the Island of New Guinea in a Traditional Sailing Canoe.
The book tells the story of an often-hazardous voyage of some 6,300 kilometres around New Guinea – the second largest island in the world (after Greenland) evading pirates, dodging crocodiles and surviving near capsizes. (Australia is a Continent by the way.)
Although Jensen has a background as sea kayaker his craft of choice for this expedition was a sailau, a traditional sailing canoe from the eastern most tip of Papua New Guinea, basically a dug-out tree trunk as hull and another tree trunk as pontoon – with a light weight tarpaulin as a main sail.
One of the noble purposes of this low-tech adventure was to demonstrate to the people of New Guinea – both Papua New Guinea and Indonesian Papua, that they had everything at hand to make a world record. For much the same reason there were no sponsor stickers on the canoe. Instead, the sides of the craft were decorated with traditional carvings collected from village communities encountered during the voyage: commendable. However, while Jensen insisted on only using local materials and methods, he did bring along a sea kayaking deck bag brimming with navigation aids, a satellite transmitter and emergency flares. And he installed a hand operated bilge pump (that saved the day on more than one occasion.)
You are hardly half way through Chapter One when you realise that the team are in for tough going. On the first day the canoe almost capsizes. On the second day Jensen falls overboard, which earns him a rebuke from his crew and makes him realize that sailing a tree trunk is a different ballgame to paddling a kayak.
Although Jensen approached the expedition with a philosophy of learning to travel ‘like a real PNG sailor’, considerable differences between the young ‘Viking’ and the master sailors soon emerge in … well … everything. One example is the sailor’s custom of only travelling when the weather is fair. Jensen on the other hand is on a schedule to cover distance before the monsoon winds blow against them. Another – the sailors believe floating green rocks can sink a canoe in the night and that a giant stingray will suck your vessel down if you disturb it. Thor is sceptical. But I think fair enough – I’m with the Milne Bay men on that. Better to be safe than sorry.
One of the most satisfying things about Salt Water and Spears Tips is that eventually everyone learns to work together. And then they have the best sort of adventure – danger, exploration, intrigue and even life lessons – not unlike Mark Twain’s tale of life and friendship on the Mississippi River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin. And like Twain’s great American tale there are other considerations for Thor. F. Jensen. His remarkable adventure challenges notions of colonial exploration by giving the people of New Guinea their own voice just as Jim the runaway slave finds his voice in Twain’s writing. And so, many of the sensational stereotypes that often mispresent modern day New Guinea are challenged and dispelled. And in their place the reader discovers a new narrative: a blending of the best of customary tradition and the best of the modern world. Amazing really.
For canoers and kayakers alike Salt Water and Spear Tips has all the elements of a great sea journey. But be warned, as you turn the last page, like me, you will have a deep, restless longing to plan your very own high seas’ expedition – or perhaps just start with a paddle on a placid lake and do a little Mississippi daydreaming.
Together with an intrepid crew of local master sailors, Thor sails out of the calm, clear tropical waters of Milne Bay Papua New Guinea towards the seldom-visited remote and dangerous coastlines of Indonesian West Papua and into history with his book Salt Water and Spear Tips.
Over 13 months and 21 days and 6,300 kilometres of adventure, Thor F. Jensen, brothers Sanakoli and Justin John and Job Siyae battle relentless monsoon winds, dangerous seas, pirates and crocodiles and in doing so tell a page-turning story for the ages.
As my famous countryman the late, great, Danish explorer Jen’s Bjerre wrote in his preface to Salt Water and Spear Tips, “The best kind of travel book – accurate, provocative, highly readable, and magnificently illustrated.”
In my view, a book can have no higher accolade or recommendation.