Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

by Michael Palin


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“Beyond terrific. I didn’t want it to end.” —Bill Bryson

Driven by a passion for travel and history and a love of ships and the sea, former Monty Python stalwart and beloved television globe-trotter Michael Palin explores the world of HMS Erebus, last seen on an ill-fated voyage to chart the Northwest Passage.

Michael Palin brings the fascinating story of the Erebus and its occupants to life, from its construction as a bomb vessel in 1826 through the flagship years of James Clark Ross’s Antarctic expedition and finally to Sir John Franklin’s quest for the holy grail of navigation—a route through the Northwest Passage, where the ship disappeared into the depths of the sea for more than 150 years. It was rediscovered under the arctic waters in 2014.

Palin travels across the world—from Tasmania to the Falkland Islands and the Canadian Arctic—to offer a firsthand account of the terrain and conditions that would have confronted the Erebus and her doomed final crew. Delving into the research, he describes the intertwined careers of the two men who shared the ship’s journeys: Ross, the organizational genius who mapped much of the Antarctic coastline and oversaw some of the earliest scientific experiments to be conducted there; and Franklin, who, at the age of sixty and after a checkered career, commanded the ship on its last disastrous venture. Expertly researched and illustrated with maps, photographs, paintings, and engravings, Erebus is an evocative account of two journeys: one successful and forgotten, the other tragic yet unforgettable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771645720
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 193,282
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hooker's Stockings xi

Prologue: The Survivor 1

1 Made in Wales 5

2 Magnetic North 19

3 Magnetic South 35

4 Far-off Shores 49

5 'Our Southern Home' 73

6 'Farther south than any (Known) human being has been' 89

7 Dancing with the Captains 113

8 'Pilgrims of the Ocean' 121

9 'Such a wretched place as this you never saw' 149

10 'Three years from Gillingham' 163

11 Homeward Bound 177

12 'So little now remains to be done' 187

13 North by North-west 211

14 No Signal 235

15 The Truth 249

16 Life and Death 263

17 The Inuit Story 277

18 Resurrection 291

Epilogue: Back in the Northwest Passage 303

Appendix: Timeline 311

Acknowledgements 315

Picture Acknowledgements 321

Index 323

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Beyond terrific. I didn’t want it to end.” —Bill Bryson

"Cracking good reading" —Publishers Weekly

"Carefully researched and well-crafted... brings the story of a ship vividly to life" —The Times

"Palin's account is full of wit and sympathy" —The Guardian

"A considerable scholarly and storytelling achievement" —Post Magazine

"Palin seeks to celebrate the spirit of exploration that set Erebus on her course [and] how such overweening self-confidence left the wreck of a fine ship disintegrating on the bed of the freezing Arctic Ocean." —Financial Times

"A well-written and captivating examination of the Erebus’ adventures" —Washington Times

"Using Erebus as a structure for outlining British Polar exploration in the first half of the nineteenth century ... is a wonderful idea and few could have carried it out as well as Michael Palin." —The Arctic Book Review

“With this irresistible and often harrowing account, Michael Palin makes a convincing case that one heroic little ship embodied the golden age of polar exploration better than any other: HMS Erebus.” —John Geiger, co-author of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition

“At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience. He turns up obscure facts, reanimates essential moments, and never shies away from taking controversial positions. This beautifully produced volume—colour plates, outstanding maps—is a landmark achievement.” —Ken McGoogan, author of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage

“Expertly written and masterfully crafted, Palin’s story of one ship’s two bold explorations successfully weaves together two hundred years of history into page-turning entertainment.” —Adam Shoalts, author of Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown

“Michael Palin is a cracking good companion on this journey of ambition, longing, triumph and tragedy. His dauntless curiosity drives us through ice-infested waters from pole to pole, and his passion for weaving together the lives of the men who lived and died on Erebus infuses every page. More than that, though, Palin’s contagious spirit of exploration proves that the age of adventure lives on in us still.” —Alanna Mitchell, author of The Spinning Magnet: The Force that Created the Modern World and Could Destroy It

“One robust little tub of a boat, two death-defying voyages to the ends of the earth. Palin has given us a fascinating account of the extraordinary courage of nineteenth-century British sailors and officers. Even the sturdiest vessel is dependent on luck, climate and its captain’s skills as he faces ferocious weather, and Palin illuminates with enthusiasm and respect this chilly history of a bomb ship that made its name first as a polar pioneer and then later as a watery tomb. Enthralling.” —Charlotte Gray, author of Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich

“What more could a reader ask for? Fascinating mystery, chilling adventure, compelling characters—one a powerful woman, another made of wood and sails—and simply terrific writing by Michael Palin.” —Roy MacGregor, author of Original Highways: Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada

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