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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. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lynas

    When epic traveller & comedian Michael Palin completed his final lice performances with the Monty Python team he naturally felt deflated. By chance he became fascinated with HMS Erebus & her fatal Arctic voyage with HMS Terror in 1845, & this excellent book is the result. Palin provides a wonderful story of the ship's history & early voyages before her ill fated journey to look for the North West Passage with HMS Terror. I first became interested in these two ship's Arctic adventu When epic traveller & comedian Michael Palin completed his final lice performances with the Monty Python team he naturally felt deflated. By chance he became fascinated with HMS Erebus & her fatal Arctic voyage with HMS Terror in 1845, & this excellent book is the result. Palin provides a wonderful story of the ship's history & early voyages before her ill fated journey to look for the North West Passage with HMS Terror. I first became interested in these two ship's Arctic adventure after watching the partly fictionalised TV series The Terror & reading the novel by Dan Simmons. Somehow I had previously known little of this historic & significant piece of real life history. Although Palin's book mainly focuses on Erebus he finds time to tell of her sister ship HMS Terror. I even learnt that Terror was built in Topsham, a place just a few miles from where I live & where my wife & I often walk! Palin charts the successful earlier voyages of Erebus & Terror to the Antarctic & evokes a gripping account of their explorations. The final dramatic journey of these two ships to the Arctic takes up the final third of the book & is both sad & uplifting. Any review I write would not do justice to such a superb book. I didn't want Palin's tale of these amazingly brave people to end. However, with the discovery of the wrecks of Erebus in 2014 & Terror is 2016 perhaps another chapter in their incredible story is yet to be told. I certainly hope so.

  2. 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.

  3. 4 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rob Thompson

    A biography of a ship and of Victorian heroism Erebus: The Story of a Ship is a biography of the voyage that was mentioned in Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness. Launched in 1826, it vanished with her sister ship, The Terror, in 1846. They were trying to find a way through the Northwest Passage.129 men were on board. The book covers not only its loss in the Arctic, but its Antarctic exploration, and its construction in Milford Haven. In September 2014, marine archaeologists discovered HMS Erebus, i A biography of a ship and of Victorian heroism Erebus: The Story of a Ship is a biography of the voyage that was mentioned in Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness. Launched in 1826, it vanished with her sister ship, The Terror, in 1846. They were trying to find a way through the Northwest Passage.129 men were on board. The book covers not only its loss in the Arctic, but its Antarctic exploration, and its construction in Milford Haven. In September 2014, marine archaeologists discovered HMS Erebus, in the frozen wastes of the Canadian arctic. Palin starts there and works back. The book is a well researched account that examines the careers of the crew, particularly its captain John Franklin. Finally, the story covers the efforts of Lady Jane Franklin to dispatch rescue ships. Palin writes a lively account which is strong on historical context. It reveals much about not only exploration but also life in the Royal Navy in the 19th century. It's certainly an evocative story of an extraordinary adventure. In the book we also learn how Palin came to love sea stories and how he became fascinated with the epic story of HMS Erebus. In summary, Palin brings energy, wit and humanity to a remarkable and stirring tale. A tale that manages to bring ship back to life. It's an epic story, full of human suffering . While the crew didn’t make their goal of the south magnetic pole, writes Palin: "never again, in the annals of the sea, would a ship, under sail alone, come close to matching what she [Erebus] and Terror had achieved."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

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

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Steeden

    I was lucky enough to get this copy of Erebus at a book signing with Palin. Nice chap he is too I must say. Erebus? What’s all this about then? Well, on 09-Sep-2014 the Prime Minister of Canada announced that a Canadian underwater archaeology team had discovered what they believed to be the HMS Erebus that had been lost for almost 170 years on the seabed somewhere in the Arctic. Palin transports us back in time to 1826 when the bomb vessel, Erebus, was launched from Pembroke Dockyard in Wales. Sh I was lucky enough to get this copy of Erebus at a book signing with Palin. Nice chap he is too I must say. Erebus? What’s all this about then? Well, on 09-Sep-2014 the Prime Minister of Canada announced that a Canadian underwater archaeology team had discovered what they believed to be the HMS Erebus that had been lost for almost 170 years on the seabed somewhere in the Arctic. Palin transports us back in time to 1826 when the bomb vessel, Erebus, was launched from Pembroke Dockyard in Wales. She wasn’t actually needed for war as it turned out. Victorian times were fast approaching and there was a new gig in town. Exploration. Travel and scientific. He provides a historical overview of Erebus’s voyages and she had an exceptional one to the Antarctic in the late 1830’s early 1840s. What a journey it is. They journey there was with Erebus’s sister ship, Terror. Erebus and Terror. There are plenty of quotes from those on-board at the time providing a very real sense of the journey and what they got up to. Parties, science and close disasters are the order of the day it seems. James Clark Ross was the captain of Erebus. ‘It might be said it was James Cook who defined the Antarctic Region, and James Ross who discovered it’ wrote Captain Scott. Palin travels as well to the some of the places that Erebus got to like Tasmania, Falkland Islands and Ascension Island. With the first half of the book, well just over half, covering the Antarctic expedition the second part looks at Erebus’ final expedition to the Arctic and trying to find a way through the Northwest Passage. I had not realised the extent to which interest lay in this particular voyage and its mysterious aftermath. It is quite enthralling. I don’t know if you are the same but when you meet the author and have the physical book signed it does make it very special and I seem to enjoy the book even more. Maybe just me? That being the case I did enjoy the book even though I had read some average reviews. Definitely recommended for you history buffs out there. The two journeys, south and north, by Erebus are amazing. I feel embarrassed that I did not know more about it before reading this. Palin has put me right.

  7. 5 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...

  8. 4 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

    Katia M. Davis

    I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw it was available. I wanted to buy a hardback copy to put on my shelf along with my other 'disaster' books. Unfortunately every time I went to buy a copy from my local store, it was sold out (which I took as a good sign). I had to resort to the ebook version. I'll get a hardback too at some point. This is an excellent discussion of the failed Franklin Expedition. It has been thoroughly researched, includes plenty of documentation and goes through the imp I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw it was available. I wanted to buy a hardback copy to put on my shelf along with my other 'disaster' books. Unfortunately every time I went to buy a copy from my local store, it was sold out (which I took as a good sign). I had to resort to the ebook version. I'll get a hardback too at some point. This is an excellent discussion of the failed Franklin Expedition. It has been thoroughly researched, includes plenty of documentation and goes through the implications of recent discoveries. Palin has produced a well written, lasting work that not only tells the story but hits with quite an emotional impact as well. Read if you are interested in Victorian explorers, extreme conditions, the chain of events leading to disaster, and fortitude in the face of terrible odds.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trista

    This was a great adventure and as far as Franklin's voyage to the North, horrifically sad. For not being sure that I would get into this book at first, I was fully invested in Franklin's doomed crew by the middle/end. I even shed a tear or two reading about the hardships these poor fools suffered. Erebus is the first work by Palin that I've read and the first nonfiction I've read on a subject such as this. He covered a lot of ground in this work; both literally and figuratively. I would say he's This was a great adventure and as far as Franklin's voyage to the North, horrifically sad. For not being sure that I would get into this book at first, I was fully invested in Franklin's doomed crew by the middle/end. I even shed a tear or two reading about the hardships these poor fools suffered. Erebus is the first work by Palin that I've read and the first nonfiction I've read on a subject such as this. He covered a lot of ground in this work; both literally and figuratively. I would say he's a good writer and thorough, I didn't find myself asking questions that he didn't address. His narration style is a well balanced mix between academic and conversational, the characters and the time are painted in as much color and life as recorded history allows. I was happy to learn that while on Orkney Island last June, I had seen the grave of John Rae, the first person to discover the human remains of Erebus and Terror 7 or 8 years after their departure, and unfortunately the first to also report of the cannibalism the men had to resort to. What I learned about taking an epic and dangerous voyage, pre communication device and GPS: 1. LEAVE MESSAGES/Reports, many of them, for posterity and potentially for your own rescue 2. Take a dedicated and amiable crew and officers but perhaps more wisely, take people who have made the journey or similar journeys before 3. Don't skimp on the quality of your food for the voyage (Rotten food cheaply and excessively sealed with lead KILLS) 4. Learn at least some of a language of the people you may encounter 5. Keep friends at home who will actually see to it that you are searched for ASAP -like, as in the month you're supposed to have returned but didn't 6. Don't use man power to carry goods you may need on land 7. Have an incessant, determined to near pain in the ass spouse who will rally up the forces in your name, including snooty, English bitches like Charles Dickens, to ensure you will be honored as a hero back home for eternity even though you may fail.

  11. 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!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phil Ford

    I have read a lot of books on the tragic Franklin Expedition, obviously involving the fated ship Erebus. I have never read one specifically about the ship, nor have I read anything by Michael Palin. This was wonderful. A book easily geared toward someone who is interested in history but doesn't necessarily need excruciating detail, although this book is chock full of the many adventures of this formidable ship and its crew. Palin has a delightful way of adding his personality throughout, with li I have read a lot of books on the tragic Franklin Expedition, obviously involving the fated ship Erebus. I have never read one specifically about the ship, nor have I read anything by Michael Palin. This was wonderful. A book easily geared toward someone who is interested in history but doesn't necessarily need excruciating detail, although this book is chock full of the many adventures of this formidable ship and its crew. Palin has a delightful way of adding his personality throughout, with little reflective moments of his own journeys following the ship's route, much like he does on his travel documentaries. Good facts, and quite interesting, a great read heading into the winter months.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mrs B

    A highly compelling and fascinating narrative, focussed on the Antarctic and Arctic voyages of the British explorer ship Erebus (and her sister ship Terror). Michael Palin successfully describes not just the ship’s journeys, but the ambitions and disappointments of those who lead her. I like the way Palin also dovetails his own travel experiences but in an unobtrusive way, so that his personal commentary doesn’t detract from the comprehensive research that forms the backbone of the book. A reall A highly compelling and fascinating narrative, focussed on the Antarctic and Arctic voyages of the British explorer ship Erebus (and her sister ship Terror). Michael Palin successfully describes not just the ship’s journeys, but the ambitions and disappointments of those who lead her. I like the way Palin also dovetails his own travel experiences but in an unobtrusive way, so that his personal commentary doesn’t detract from the comprehensive research that forms the backbone of the book. A really excellent read.

  14. 5 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!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Darlene Stericker

    A slow start but by the second year in Antartica, this book is fascinating. At first I did not appreciate the author's incursions into the story with his wry observations but they made more sense by the end of the book. This was an excellent retelling of the history of Erebus with much research and documentation.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mia Kleve

    Excellent book reviewing the entire history of Erebus. I was mostly interested in the Franklin Expedition (the final voyage of Erebus and Terror trying to confirm the Northwest Passage) as I am a fan of Dan Simmons' The Terror. Learning the history of ships as well as the men who crewed them was wonderful. I was also surprised at the amount of information that had been found regarding the final fate of Erebus and Terror.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A little dry in the middle but overall, very informative.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt Kelland

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

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Wise

    'Ah for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage To find the hand of Franklin reaching the Beaufort Sea Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage An make a northwest passage to the sea.' I'll be the first to admit that although i'm extremely interested in the lives and biographies of world famous explorers, I had not previously learned about the golden age of polar exploration. I wasn't familiar at all with such British heroes as Admiral John Franklin and Sir James Clark Ross; 'Ah for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage To find the hand of Franklin reaching the Beaufort Sea Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage An make a northwest passage to the sea.' I'll be the first to admit that although i'm extremely interested in the lives and biographies of world famous explorers, I had not previously learned about the golden age of polar exploration. I wasn't familiar at all with such British heroes as Admiral John Franklin and Sir James Clark Ross; so the book immediately sparked massive interest in me. I'm a big Michael Palin fan, too. Michael's passion for travelling and exploration is wonderful and he tells his tales with such enthusiasm, humour and childlike excitement. I can't help but always feel a little envious as to the tremendously free spirited life he leads, but am hugely grateful of the entertainment he provides. Erebus: The Story of a Ship is an account of one of the most famous Arctic and Antarctic exploration vessels, built in 1826. Palin has gathered together vast amounts of records, books, notes, diaries and any other various pieces of information to give us a comprehensive biography of the ship's life; and wow! What a ship she was. From the intricate details of the construction of the ship's parts to the unbelievably detailed accounts of the ship's voyages, the lives of the crews aboard, the political issues, particularly on Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania), the stories of swashbuckling sailors, the modern science research of Victorian Britain; the enthralling and tense missions to the Antarctica and finally the doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage. The book is phenomenally well pieced together and conjures up a real storm of emotions; I honestly couldn't put it down. I was frantically on Google Earth matching up longitudes and latitudes following her journeys and imagining I was there. I felt pride at James Clark Ross's heroic leadership and world changing discoveries, to genuine sadness of Francis Crozier's depression and Lady Franklin's broken heart and of course the devastating loss of so many lives in such a horrific way. At times I felt a little uneasy reading about the colonies of which the British Empire had stamped its mark on and the various species of animals slaughtered in the name of science but these would always be countered by wonderful stories of kindness and honourable acts. It's absolutely incredible how much interest, still to this day is drummed up all over the world on the ship Erebus and her trusty sister ship, Terror. They'll never be forgotten and nor will their crews, as even today, 170 years later people still search for remnants of her life, as she was a ship of so much character and of such rich history. Palin has delivered one of the best biographies ever; I can't recommend this book enough. I'll certainly be planning holidays and days out in the future to trace the steps of Erebus as I think i'll always feel like i'm a part of her story now.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    H.M.S. Erebus was a ship that explored the farthest reaches of the globe both in the north and the south along with H.M.S. Terror, a slightly smaller ship. In an expedition led by Captain James Clark Ross, the ships explored the coastline of Antarctica during a four-year-long expedition of research on the earth’s magnetism as well as collecting flora and fauna. They then went north, led by Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage. They disappeared and the mystery of the Franklin Expe H.M.S. Erebus was a ship that explored the farthest reaches of the globe both in the north and the south along with H.M.S. Terror, a slightly smaller ship. In an expedition led by Captain James Clark Ross, the ships explored the coastline of Antarctica during a four-year-long expedition of research on the earth’s magnetism as well as collecting flora and fauna. They then went north, led by Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage. They disappeared and the mystery of the Franklin Expedition led to multiple rescue and discovery missions that brought more questions than answers at times until just a few years ago when the ships were found. Michael Palin who has forged a career as a world explorer and travel documentarian since his years with Monty Python turned his attention to the Erebus, doing deep research into its history and retracing the path, visiting many of the places the Erebus traveled, even getting near to its final resting place. The result is Erebus, a fascinating history of the ship and the men who sailed her. Erebus begins at the beginning, the construction of the ship and follows it on its easy first assignments in the Mediterranean before moving on to the heady and often harrowing exploration of Antarctica and the mystery of its disappearance. Palin is a generalist, a sort of Everyman, which makes this such a pleasing history. He has that fascination with personalities and oddities that academics often ignore. He wonders what happened to Franklin’s monkey. A naval historian or other academic might wonder about that kind of trivia as well, but would never admit it. But I wonder what happened, too. Of course, I also read Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition. I have been fascinated by the explorers of the Arctic and Antarctic ever since I read Antarctic Navigation by Elizabeth Arthur back in 1995. That made Erebus an irresistible book for me. I am happy it lived up to my high expectations. The research is scrupulous and careful. Palin offers many explanations of what may have gone wrong, but is fair-minded in explaining why even the best explanations cannot be certain. I appreciate how he keeps himself to the background most of the time, only sharing his impressions when he goes in person to walk in their footsteps, seeing what they saw. I love that he does not deliver definitive answers to the mysteries and keeps asking questions, including the monkey question. Those are the questions that his active and curious intellect chases and it makes for a rich, rewarding history. I received a copy of Erebus for review from the publisher. Erebus at Greystone Books Michael Palin author site Michael Palin Erebus Page Palin’s Travels https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  21. 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura HP

    This is an excellent, gripping book about 2 incredible voyages at the height of Britain's golden age of naval exploration. Palin successfully brings the major characters in both journeys to life and his narrative is both informative and highly readable. The book is amazingly engrossing and moving - reading it takes you from the suspenseful, ultimately triumphant Antarctic Ross voyage, crashing down into the doomed, brutal Franklin voyage that killed everyone on board. Each of those voyages can f This is an excellent, gripping book about 2 incredible voyages at the height of Britain's golden age of naval exploration. Palin successfully brings the major characters in both journeys to life and his narrative is both informative and highly readable. The book is amazingly engrossing and moving - reading it takes you from the suspenseful, ultimately triumphant Antarctic Ross voyage, crashing down into the doomed, brutal Franklin voyage that killed everyone on board. Each of those voyages can fill a book - and they have! - so it's especially impressive that Palin covers them both capably and still keeps the book brisk and engaging. Probably my favourite part was the description of the near catastrophe in Antarctica, when Erebus and Terror crashed while trying frantically to avoid icebergs. I've read about the incident before, but even though I knew how it would end, the description was so suspenseful and evocative you could practically see the near-disaster happen. I also appreciated the even-handed treatment of the many, many theories on what happened to the Frankling crew. As with many books about this era, Erebus tends to sail past, for instance, the racism exhibited in many of these ships' encounters around the globe - the native Fuegians example was particularly bad. I appreciated that the Inuit accounts of the Franklin expedition were given their due, but it would have been nice to learn more about the actual Inuit individuals involved in these observations and subsequent research. Palin is also much kinder to Franklin than I am but Franklin does seem to charm authors and historians through the ages! Overall, a solid, informative, suspenseful history that tells a very worthy story and is worth a read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark Moorman

    My son was kind enough to give me a signed copy of this book, and so I read it. Of course, I admire Palin from his Python days and other activities. My review will be brief. On the plus side it is a page-turner and I finished it very quickly. Palin tells a fascinating tale well, and with sufficient background knowledge (of people like Alexander von Humboldt, British geo-political history, etc.). I would say he fumbles a bit when he inserts his own visits nowadays to various locales in the book. My son was kind enough to give me a signed copy of this book, and so I read it. Of course, I admire Palin from his Python days and other activities. My review will be brief. On the plus side it is a page-turner and I finished it very quickly. Palin tells a fascinating tale well, and with sufficient background knowledge (of people like Alexander von Humboldt, British geo-political history, etc.). I would say he fumbles a bit when he inserts his own visits nowadays to various locales in the book. These are interesting and well-written---they just barge into the narrative breaking down the "4th wall." They do not contribute much to the story. I think an editor might have worked these in with greater finesse. He was somewhat hampered by the truth of events. The antarctic voyage is much longer and more interesting than the final arctic voyage (for obvious reasons) but there is a feeling of imbalance; probably unavoidable. The most instructive moment of the book was when Palin describes the British public's tenacious refusal to take in the news of cannibalism and failure. They simply re-wrote the narrative to make it a courageous and daring "first," and to deny the folly and horror. This reminds me of current American habits of lying about our actions, and focusing only on good bits that need a heavy dose of lying to highlight. So, no talk of our illegal invasion of Iraq and 600,000 civilian dead, or insane gun laws and mass killings during which only the courage of "first responders" is lauded. A lesson for today hidden in the vanity of the past. As one would expect there is some good humor, eg, a trigger happy Scot who shoots everything in sight.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emma Helen Wilson

    An unusual choice of reading for me; I rarely read non fiction and can’t say I have ever read a book about maritime history before. However after finishing The Terror by Dan Simmons, a fictional account of the fate of the Franklin expedition, I became a little obsessed with this fascinating part of British history and I couldn’t resist picking up this book. This was a really engaging and accessible read. I adored Palin’s meticulously researched retelling of Erebus and Terror’s Antarctic adventur An unusual choice of reading for me; I rarely read non fiction and can’t say I have ever read a book about maritime history before. However after finishing The Terror by Dan Simmons, a fictional account of the fate of the Franklin expedition, I became a little obsessed with this fascinating part of British history and I couldn’t resist picking up this book. This was a really engaging and accessible read. I adored Palin’s meticulously researched retelling of Erebus and Terror’s Antarctic adventures under James Clark Ross; intertwining journal entries and letters from members of the crew with his own experiences of desolate polar environments to create an evocative account of life at sea in such remarkable conditions. I found this earlier part of the book of the lesser known Antarctic voyage of Erebus much more enjoyable than the latter part of the book detailing the Franklin expedition, which as I mentioned above was what drove me to pick it up in the first place. However this makes sense, really; no one alive knows what happened onboard Erebus during it’s last years afloat as an active vessel, how the men, lived, died and how the ship herself reached her final resting place beneath the ice. Palin sticks to relaying the facts rather than conjecture, which is appropriate given this is non-fiction but, for me, left an unsatisfying edge to the last couple of chapters. Still a fabulously written, enjoyable account which has left me feeling a little more educated about an interesting part of British history.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Simon Pressinger

    Filled with fascinating tales of adventure, disaster, intrigue and discovery. I wanted to listen to this one because I'm used to hearing Palin's voice as he narrates his travel documentaries. He's such a virtuoso when it comes to bringing multiple narratives together into one big story, and his passionate account of the birth, life and death of Erebus is written with verve and gusto. You see his decades of knowledge of travelling on ships coming in quite useful, and his enthusiasm for history is Filled with fascinating tales of adventure, disaster, intrigue and discovery. I wanted to listen to this one because I'm used to hearing Palin's voice as he narrates his travel documentaries. He's such a virtuoso when it comes to bringing multiple narratives together into one big story, and his passionate account of the birth, life and death of Erebus is written with verve and gusto. You see his decades of knowledge of travelling on ships coming in quite useful, and his enthusiasm for history is tamed with careful research into the pioneering voyages of Erebus and its doomed crew. It's needless to say that oceanic travel in the 19th century was dominated by men, and it's therefore the entirely male voices of the crews of Erebus and her sister-ship Terror that Palin is (most understandably) concerned with. I can't help but feel, though, that this distinctly masculine tale of expedition and scientific advancement comes at a strange time in Britain's history, where narratives, tinged with nostalgia for Great Britain's trailblazing past, are interfering in its turbulent political present. My main criticism of the book is its overall tone. I'm suspicious of nostalgia in historical non-fiction, especially when it envelops the kinds of subject matter that can be linked with the awful later story of British colonialism. This obviously isn't to say that the past should be ignored. And besides, it's a fascinating story. There are so many little details to savour and enjoy, and Michael Palin really is an excellent storyteller.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    This 3 star rating is misleading! Some parts about this were a 5, some made me feel like it was a 1. Michael Palin's major flaw is also where he succeeds when other polar historians fail; Palin is one of the few who juxtapose the history with what the history has contributed to the contemporary conversations about the arctic. His best work within this novel is talking about how the story of Erebus shifted to a story about Canadian heritage when this was not even a country at the time of the exped This 3 star rating is misleading! Some parts about this were a 5, some made me feel like it was a 1. Michael Palin's major flaw is also where he succeeds when other polar historians fail; Palin is one of the few who juxtapose the history with what the history has contributed to the contemporary conversations about the arctic. His best work within this novel is talking about how the story of Erebus shifted to a story about Canadian heritage when this was not even a country at the time of the expedition. His talk of how Atwood and Berton contributed to the story and worked with BBC to create the narrative a Canadian one is an amazing piece of Canadian studies // this look at the contemporary dialogue is also where he fails because he makes a lot of the dialogue about himself. it has long descriptions of how he went to certain places and it reads like a very boring privileged travel memoir and it was excruciatingly masturbatory and boring as hell. I love that he has this passion, but wow, get over yourself my guy the story of the Erebus doesn't need to be your personal travel diary. also... god bless ParksCanada.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Faye Elliott

    This is possibly the first book of its kind that I’ve read, I usually only read fiction. I picked it up because I like to read something out of my comfort zone every now and then. I have really, truly enjoyed this - Palins tale of Erebus has been meticulously researched and written in a conversational, relaxed style - with some justified opinions that Palin has about the characters and personalities of the people who take part thrown in (and some humorous observations). The descriptions of the A This is possibly the first book of its kind that I’ve read, I usually only read fiction. I picked it up because I like to read something out of my comfort zone every now and then. I have really, truly enjoyed this - Palins tale of Erebus has been meticulously researched and written in a conversational, relaxed style - with some justified opinions that Palin has about the characters and personalities of the people who take part thrown in (and some humorous observations). The descriptions of the Arctic and Antarctic were absolutely amazing. The story of Erebus was told in minute detail and yet even though I know nothing of seafaring or ships I was able to follow its story. One caveat however - there is a huge ‘cast’ of characters, and I found it quite confusing to keep track of who was who for the first third of the book, especially as there are about 30 of them named John and some even have the same name. It would have been helpful to have a list of the names of those associated with the ship and a brief description to aid. I will definitely look out for something similar, however and thoroughly recommend.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    Michael Palin is awesome. What a great and enormously productive life he has made for himself. Mr. Palin has entertained and enlightened me on so many things. I own and have watched all his travel documentaries (multiple times). He is such an amiable individual I feel like he is a friend. I wish him good health and a long life (selfishly so he can make many more travel docs.) I haven't written many or maybe not any reviews. Many of the reviews I read from others are so well done that I'm afraid a Michael Palin is awesome. What a great and enormously productive life he has made for himself. Mr. Palin has entertained and enlightened me on so many things. I own and have watched all his travel documentaries (multiple times). He is such an amiable individual I feel like he is a friend. I wish him good health and a long life (selfishly so he can make many more travel docs.) I haven't written many or maybe not any reviews. Many of the reviews I read from others are so well done that I'm afraid any words I can put together will be lacking. BUT, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this book! I like reading historical narrative type books, you know David McCullough type books. "The Great Bridge" is one of my favorites. Anyway, I say this to offer up my opinion that I enjoyed this book as much or more than any of Mr. McCullough's books. I know that is saying a lot but thats my opinion. Anyway, I guess I haven't said a thing about the book itself. But there are plenty of reviews here that have done that. I just wanted to put a plug in for my man, Michael Palin!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sicofonia

    This book does a good job at covering the Erebus history, beyond the tragic journey that saw its wreckage in 1847-8. Interestingly enough, it focused quite a lot on the Antarctic expedition led by James Clark Ross in 1839-43. Which is expected as it was a successful and long expedition that generated a vast literature. There is room for speculation and facts in this book, while the final route of Erebus and Terror has been identified... the reason why many sailors perished it is still a matter of This book does a good job at covering the Erebus history, beyond the tragic journey that saw its wreckage in 1847-8. Interestingly enough, it focused quite a lot on the Antarctic expedition led by James Clark Ross in 1839-43. Which is expected as it was a successful and long expedition that generated a vast literature. There is room for speculation and facts in this book, while the final route of Erebus and Terror has been identified... the reason why many sailors perished it is still a matter of debate. Maybe the part I liked the least were several intermissions of Palin during the story describing some recent journeys in the same areas related in the text. Which makes for some past-present-past changes that I'm not a fan of, but this is just my personal appreciation. All in all I enjoyed the read, and more importantly, I feel a learnt a lot from the book about the final destiny of John Franklin and its men.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amerynth

    I received a free copy of Michael Palin's book "Erebus: One ship, two epic voyages and the greatest Naval mystery of all time" from LT's Early Reviewers program. I have a dread of books where the author's name is larger on the cover than the book title because I find authors with that practice tend to insert themselves into the story and this, sadly was one of those. As Palin didn't sail on the Erebus, there really isn't need to mention himself (or the places he went to do research) in the book, I received a free copy of Michael Palin's book "Erebus: One ship, two epic voyages and the greatest Naval mystery of all time" from LT's Early Reviewers program. I have a dread of books where the author's name is larger on the cover than the book title because I find authors with that practice tend to insert themselves into the story and this, sadly was one of those. As Palin didn't sail on the Erebus, there really isn't need to mention himself (or the places he went to do research) in the book, yet he does. I'm very familiar with both of the expeditions this book is focused on and they are both interesting stories.... this book really should have been a slam dunk for me. But I dislike the way Palin writes... he made a great story incredibly dry and boring.

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