HMS Erebus was one of the great exploring ships, a veteran of groundbreaking expeditions to the ends of the Earth. In 1848, it disappeared in the Arctic, its fate a mystery. In 2014, it was found. This is its story.
Michael Palin – Monty Python star and television globetrotter – brings the remarkable Erebus back to life, following it from its launch in 1826 to the epic voyages of discovery that led to glory in the Antarctic and to ultimate catastrophe in the Arctic.
The ship was filled with fascinating people: the dashing and popular James Clark Ross, who charted much of the 'Great Southern Barrier'; the troubled John Franklin, whose chequered career culminated in the Erebus's final, disastrous expedition; and the eager Joseph Dalton Hooker, a brilliant naturalist – when he wasn't shooting the local wildlife dead.
Vividly recounting the experiences of the men who first set foot on Antarctica's Victoria Land, and those who, just a few years later, froze to death one by one in the Arctic ice, beyond the reach of desperate rescue missions, Erebus is a wonderfully evocative account of a truly extraordinary adventure, brought to life by a master explorer and storyteller.
Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous TV programmes and films, from Monty Python and Ripping Yarns to The Missionary and American Friends. He has also made several much-acclaimed travel documentaries, his journeys taking him to the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe and Brazil. His books include accounts of his journeys, novels (Hemingway's Chair and The Truth) and several volumes of diaries. From 2009 to 2012 he was president of the Royal Geographical Society, and in 2013 he was made a BAFTA fellow. He lives in London.
"Beyond terrific. I didn't want it to end."
– Bill Bryson
"Thoroughly absorbs the reader [...] Carefully researched and well-crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life."
– Sunday Times
"With this irresistible and often harrowing account, Michael Palin makes a convincing case that one heroic little ship embodied the golden ago of polar exploration better than any other: HMS Erebus."
– John Geiger, co-author of Frozen in Time
"Magisterial [...] A natural storyteller, [Palin] captures beautifully the sense of awe experienced by Ross and his men as they encountered the wonders and terrors of Antarctica [...] He brings energy, wit and humanity to a story that has never ceased to tantalise people since the 1840s."
– The Times
"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 Fatal Passage
"This is an incredible book. I couldn't put it down. The Erebus story is the Arctic epic we've all been waiting for."
– Nicholas Crane
"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 A History of Canada in Ten Maps
"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 [...] Enthralling."
– Charlotte Gray, author of The Promise of Canada
"Michael Palin is a cracking good companion on this journey of ambition, longing, triumph and tragedy [...] Palin's contagious spirit of exploration proves that the age of adventure lives on in us still."
– Alanna Mitchell, author of The Spinning Magnet