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Erebus: The Story of a Ship

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In his major new work, Michael Palin – former Monty Python stalwart and much-loved television globe-trotter – brings to life the world and voyages of HMS Erebus, from its construction in the naval dockyards of Pembroke, to the part it played in Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839–43, to its abandonment during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition, and to its final redisco In his major new work, Michael Palin – former Monty Python stalwart and much-loved television globe-trotter – brings to life the world and voyages of HMS Erebus, from its construction in the naval dockyards of Pembroke, to the part it played in Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839–43, to its abandonment during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition, and to its final rediscovery on the seabed in Queen Maud Gulf in 2014. He explores the intertwined careers of the men who shared its journeys: the organisational genius James Clark Ross, who mapped much of the Antarctic coastline and oversaw some of the earliest scientific experiments to be conducted there; and the troubled Sir John Franklin, who, at the age of 60 and after a chequered career, commanded the ship on its final journey. And he describes what life on board was like for the dozens of men who stepped ashore in Antarctica’s Victoria Land, and for the officers and crew who, one by one, froze and starved to death in the Arctic wastes as rescue missions desperately tried to track them down. To help tell the story, he has travelled to various locations across the world – Tasmania, the Falklands, the Canadian Arctic – to search for local information, and to experience at first hand the terrain and the conditions that would have confronted the Erebus and her crew. Illustrated with maps, paintings and engravings, this is a wonderfully evocative and epic account, written by a master explorer and storyteller.


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In his major new work, Michael Palin – former Monty Python stalwart and much-loved television globe-trotter – brings to life the world and voyages of HMS Erebus, from its construction in the naval dockyards of Pembroke, to the part it played in Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839–43, to its abandonment during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition, and to its final redisco In his major new work, Michael Palin – former Monty Python stalwart and much-loved television globe-trotter – brings to life the world and voyages of HMS Erebus, from its construction in the naval dockyards of Pembroke, to the part it played in Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839–43, to its abandonment during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition, and to its final rediscovery on the seabed in Queen Maud Gulf in 2014. He explores the intertwined careers of the men who shared its journeys: the organisational genius James Clark Ross, who mapped much of the Antarctic coastline and oversaw some of the earliest scientific experiments to be conducted there; and the troubled Sir John Franklin, who, at the age of 60 and after a chequered career, commanded the ship on its final journey. And he describes what life on board was like for the dozens of men who stepped ashore in Antarctica’s Victoria Land, and for the officers and crew who, one by one, froze and starved to death in the Arctic wastes as rescue missions desperately tried to track them down. To help tell the story, he has travelled to various locations across the world – Tasmania, the Falklands, the Canadian Arctic – to search for local information, and to experience at first hand the terrain and the conditions that would have confronted the Erebus and her crew. Illustrated with maps, paintings and engravings, this is a wonderfully evocative and epic account, written by a master explorer and storyteller.

30 review for Erebus: The Story of a Ship

  1. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Utterly enthralling, compulsive stuff. I was already quite familiar with the doomed Franklin Expedition but this adds a whole new layer to it, plus new stuff i was not aware of, which has been meticulously and lovingly researched by Palin. Add to that - the amazing narration by Palin himself, it has to be only way to devour this book. I could listen to him narrate the phone book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    BOTW https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Michael Palin reads from his new book, abridged by Penny Leicester, about the mysterious and tragic voyage of HMS Erebus in 1845: A 19th century botanist, Joseph Hooker, and a press conference in Canada in 2014 sharpen the author's interest in the story. Erebus made a successful journey to the Antarctic and was being rigged and loaded for a second expedition to the Northwest Passage. Hopes were high when she finally set off with HMS Terror from Greenhithe on th From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Michael Palin reads from his new book, abridged by Penny Leicester, about the mysterious and tragic voyage of HMS Erebus in 1845: A 19th century botanist, Joseph Hooker, and a press conference in Canada in 2014 sharpen the author's interest in the story. Erebus made a successful journey to the Antarctic and was being rigged and loaded for a second expedition to the Northwest Passage. Hopes were high when she finally set off with HMS Terror from Greenhithe on the Thames estuary.. Producer Duncan Minshull https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ericka Seidemann

    Palin’s Erebus is a comprehensive account of one of the most famous Arctic and Antarctic exploration vessels. Palin provides a detailed yet compelling overview of the life of Erebus, recently rediscovered in only 36 feet of water in the Arctic, where she has remained since her last voyage with Sir John Franklin in 1845. Palin’s Erebus reviews the life of the ship, from her first uneventful days as a warship to her watery demise in the mid-1800s in the infamous and mysterious Franklin North West P Palin’s Erebus is a comprehensive account of one of the most famous Arctic and Antarctic exploration vessels. Palin provides a detailed yet compelling overview of the life of Erebus, recently rediscovered in only 36 feet of water in the Arctic, where she has remained since her last voyage with Sir John Franklin in 1845. Palin’s Erebus reviews the life of the ship, from her first uneventful days as a warship to her watery demise in the mid-1800s in the infamous and mysterious Franklin North West Passage expedition. He offers information and direct quotations from numerous primary sources with engaging narrative, often breaking the tension with some levity. The scholarship is commendable and thorough. I found myself taking copious notes while reading, as I didn’t want to forget a thing. Although there's not a lot of new information presented here, Palin’s historical account of Erebus is sprinkled with descriptions of his own travels — to Hobart, where Erebus and Terror visited while Franklin was governor of Van Diemen’s Land, to Antarctica in 2014, to various places where Erebus docked during her service, like the Falklands. Palin includes historical accounts of Erebus’s time in these places, as well as his impressions of the landscape as it looks currently, and Erebus’s long-standing legacies. Palin left no stone unturned, often literally, while tracking Erebus’s journey. He even reviews the plans by the master shipwright who outfitted her for her expedition to the Arctic. He reviews Erebus’s time in Antarctica under James Clark Ross, as well her time under John Franklin, where she ended her tenure. The last chapter of Erebus covers the recent resurgence in the Franklin mystery, and ends with Palin’s visit to Antarctica in 2017, to see the final places along the parties’ sojourn across the ice. I wish he had actually gotten to Erebus, and I look forward to future books containing new information from the recently discovered ships. Some reviewers have complained that not enough time was spent discussing the Franklin expedition, but honestly, that's not what I was reading this for. The book is called Erebus for a reason, and there's more to this ship than just the Franklin expedition. If you're looking for Franklin information, I recommend Russell Potter's Finding Franklin; Palin's Erebus is a thorough account of Erebus, and I was excited to read this to learn of her lesser-known voyage with James Clark Ross.  Erebus will appeal to Arctic scholars as well as armchair sailors like me. No sentence was superfluous and every chapter offered something engaging. Highly recommended. Many thanks to LibraryThing First Reviewers and Greystone Books for this advance copy in exchange for my review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    A fabulous book! The story of Erebus and all who sailed on her, is a story that was desperate to be told, and well, Michael Palin is the perfect storyteller in which to do it! It's testement to all the journals, diaries and sketches kept by the explorers on Erebus, and thankfully all the documents that have happily survived, but Palin must have left no stone unturned in the research of this book, he writes beautifully, and actually, he writes almost as though he was deployed as the ship's report A fabulous book! The story of Erebus and all who sailed on her, is a story that was desperate to be told, and well, Michael Palin is the perfect storyteller in which to do it! It's testement to all the journals, diaries and sketches kept by the explorers on Erebus, and thankfully all the documents that have happily survived, but Palin must have left no stone unturned in the research of this book, he writes beautifully, and actually, he writes almost as though he was deployed as the ship's reporter, at the time of these fearless voyages, such a vivid picture is painted. Another wonderful bonus about this book is, I found myself reading it with the voice of Michael Palin in my head....how lovely. And for that, I can obviously recommended the audio CD too!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barry Turner

    Ha ha I was ploughing through this much like the ship itself carved out a foothold in Arctic waters. Progess slowed - mine that is - with growing realisation I was struggling to read it. Subsequently turned out I gotta cataract. But blessed is the Lord. On BBCiplayer is an abridged reading of the book by Palin himself. Much easier! This audiobook lark could catch on!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt Kelland

    Palin brings the Franklin Expedition to life better than anyone except the Dan Simmons novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I really wanted to love Michael Palin’s new book “Erebus”. I really did. I am a fan not just of his comedy, but also of his travel shows. Additionally, the lost Franklin expedition that sank the Erebus and the Terror is something I have been interested in for years. I thought this would be a perfect storm (pun intended) for a reviewer’s book. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book. Palin does an excellent job provided the facts and using period documents to tell the story of Erebus from birth to I really wanted to love Michael Palin’s new book “Erebus”. I really did. I am a fan not just of his comedy, but also of his travel shows. Additionally, the lost Franklin expedition that sank the Erebus and the Terror is something I have been interested in for years. I thought this would be a perfect storm (pun intended) for a reviewer’s book. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book. Palin does an excellent job provided the facts and using period documents to tell the story of Erebus from birth to death. But he has fallen into the trap of historical non-fiction writing, it feels like a textbook. It is dry and has no real excitement. He also I feel lingers too long on the previous journeys of the Erebus and gives a small amount of time to the Franklin expedition. The book I think would have benefitted by a more in depth look at that fateful expedition as well the new discovery of both shipwrecks. This is a very well researched book, and I can sense that he loves this story of the Erebus. But I feel that the execution was just not very engaging.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan Paxton

    The bomb vessel HMS Erebus (and her near-sister HMS Terror) is best known for the way she ended; lost in the tragedy of the expedition led by Sir John Franklin to discover a way through the Northwest Passage. But, as Michael Palin ably tells in this new book, that's only the very end of an eventful story. Constructed at Pembroke in the quiet lee of the French Wars and launched in 1826, Erebus only had one, uneventful commission as a bomb vessel. But the Royal Navy was learning that the bomb ships The bomb vessel HMS Erebus (and her near-sister HMS Terror) is best known for the way she ended; lost in the tragedy of the expedition led by Sir John Franklin to discover a way through the Northwest Passage. But, as Michael Palin ably tells in this new book, that's only the very end of an eventful story. Constructed at Pembroke in the quiet lee of the French Wars and launched in 1826, Erebus only had one, uneventful commission as a bomb vessel. But the Royal Navy was learning that the bomb ships, small yet roomy, heavily built to absorb the recoil of of two heavy mortars, were ideal for expedition ships, and exploration was becoming a more important part of the Navy's work in peacetime. So it was that Erebus found herself mostly disarmed and put back into service as a research vessel. Palin tells the story of the Royal Navy's exploratory efforts in the first third of the 19th century as he sets his story up, and he does so clearly and understandably. It's important that he do so because a number of characters who show up later in the story are hereby introduced. In 1839, Erebus was taken in hand and refitted for what would be her greatest adventure - the three year mission commanded by James Clark Ross to explore Antarctica and its environs. Again Palin tells the story well, pointing out that only the first year of the expedition was really successful, but a huge amount of territory was mapped, many new species of plants and sea creatures were discovered, and Erebus even left her name on the only active volcano on the great southern continent. Ably woven into the story are several first hand accounts, bringing a great deal of life to what might have been a dry recital. Returning to England in 1843, there was one more adventure. In 1845 Erebus and her Antarctic partner Terror were refitted, being equipped with small steam engines, to go in search of a way through the Northwest Passage. This time, they would not return. Earlier this year I read another book about the Franklin expedition, and I have to give Palin a lot of credit for writing the story in a straightforward and clear fashion, which the other book did not manage. He tells what's known, and then goes on to describe the many expeditions that were sent to search for Franklin and his unfortunate men. Eventually the story was figured out, and it was grim - they had all died, probably of scurvy and starvation, reduced even to cannibalism. The wrecks of Erebus and Terror have been found in recent years, and exploration continues. Palin inserts himself here and there, having travelled to many of the places the ship visited, and his then/now perspective adds a great deal. All in all this is a very readable and enjoyable book and a great biography of one unsung little ship and her place in the history of polar exploration.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julian Walker

    History fabulously brought to life, in the author's natural and easy writing style. This is an amazingly well-researched book, using the ship as the focal point of a finely detailed story on history, politics people and also the spirit of the age. The characters and motivations of an historic time are fabulously brought to life and I have already recommended this book to a number of people. A great read and a superb way to treat history - with passion and the pen. Loved this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A truly enjoyable read about an area that I knew a small amount about, but didn't know much, so this book filled in the blanks quite nicely! I want to read more about ongoing research into these wrecks, and perhaps even do an arctic visit myself someday, just to see the landscapes described in this book. Palin has a warm and friendly writing style that really pulls you into the work. You won't be disappointed in this book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin McMahon

    A thoroughly fascinating and entertaining book on a Victorian tragedy which has really piqued my interest in the search for the northwest passage. The author has made a great job of providing a potted history of HMS Erebus and her crews at both the Antarctic and Arctic regions and I could not put it down. I will definitely read more on this subject and of Sir John Franklin. One of the best books I've read this year and so glad that I picked this up on a whim.

  13. 5 out of 5

    donna_ehm

    I enjoyed listening to the enthusiasm Palin brings to the narration of his book. He clearly has a love for the subject, and is as fascinated by the story of Franklin and his search for the Northwest Passage as anyone familiar with the story. The telling of how the fate of the expedition was eventually pieced together by a few of those sent out to try and find out what happened was really fascinating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frank O'connor

    This is a book about exploration, history and geography. It is, literally, the story of a ship, from the moment it was conceived of until its modern fate. Palin neatly passes between the past and the present, giving a rich sense of time passing. He brings to life the sense of adventure at sea and the historical feel of mid nineteenth century life. Curiously, the ship itself feels characterless, but that is perhaps because of the vivid characters who come and go during its life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Take a bow Mr Palin!! There is a lot of research which has gone in to making this book and you can clearly tell. The details about the expeditions are well explained. The way the book is written really makes you feel for the Captains and crew of Erubus, but surprisingly I had emotions for the ship especially what it went through. I absolutely loved this book and couldn't put it down.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Aitkens

    Great research and a fascinating story brought to life. Getting to know these often forgotten explorers has made this book ‘un-put-downable’ for me. Even if you know nothing about naval exploration or their ships you’ll find this an incredible adventure.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Wow, Is Michael Palin just good at everything he does. This is great insight into the story of erebus, engaging and lovingly written. Its not a long book but it is a great book to read in an afternoon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Enda Hackett

    I really enjoyed this historical account. Although a bit dry(ahem) in places, the book does move along at a steady pace so the reader is not bored for long. The story of the Franklin expedition is exceptional.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A biography of a ship and the path through history it takes isn't an original idea. But what a ship, and what a path! Palin does a very good job of telling the story of her voyages, discoveries, loss, and rediscovery.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tomgirl deni

    An excellent read, couldn’t put it down. If you love sea tales and Arctic/Antarctic adventure and misadventures this is one for you. Written in Palin’s amiable style it’s a great read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susan Grimshaw

    Superb book, written with great knowledge and enthusiasm. I loved it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jojo

    A well researched and put together story of a sad voyage, and one I knew nothing about despite being interested in similar epic adventures. As ever Mr Palin tells a good story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Great read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rob Powell

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carl B Richards

  26. 5 out of 5

    AnyD

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  28. 4 out of 5

    S.Grannum

  29. 4 out of 5

    Geraint Roberts

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matt

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