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Erebus: The Story of a Ship

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In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, HMS Erebus undertook two of the most ambitious naval expeditions of all time.

On the first, she ventured further south than any human had ever been. On the second, she vanished with her 129-strong crew in the wastes of the Canadian Arctic.

Her fate remained a mystery for over 160 years.

Then, in 2014, she was found.

This is her story.

334 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2018

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About the author

Michael Palin

115 books1,007 followers
Sir Michael Edward Palin, KCMG, CBE, FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries.

Palin wrote most of his material with Terry Jones. Before Monty Python, they had worked on other shows such as The Ken Dodd Show, The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set. Palin appeared in some of the most famous Python sketches, including "The Dead Parrot", "The Lumberjack Song", "The Spanish Inquisition" and "Spam". Palin continued to work with Jones, co-writing Ripping Yarns. He has also appeared in several films directed by fellow Python Terry Gilliam and made notable appearances in other films such as A Fish Called Wanda, for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted the 30th favourite by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

After Python, he began a new career as a travel writer. His journeys have taken him across the world, the North and South Poles, the Sahara desert, the Himalayas and most recently, Eastern Europe. In 2000 Palin became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 852 reviews
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 32 books338 followers
February 14, 2022
This is a brilliant book about a small ship that along with her sister ship, Terror, survived the Antarctic only to sink in the Arctic on an expedition to find the North-West Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The book is incredibly well researched and engagingly written and is a maritime mystery that will almost certainly never be solved.

For anyone interested in exploration and heroic tales, this is a book for you.
Profile Image for Philip Allan.
Author 13 books354 followers
June 17, 2022
As an enthusiast for the age of sail who earns his livelihood writing and lecturing about ships and the sea, my heart sank at first when I heard that an aging celebrity comedian had written a history of the Erebus. But a family member lent me their copy, and on a subsequent holiday in France I dived in. I was pleasantly surprised. Erabus proved to be a well written book about an important ship with a fascinating story to tell. It is solidly researched with at best a couple of tiny technical errors to annoy the nautical pedant.

While a book like this is sure to be enjoyed by someone like me, it has a much more general appeal. Palin is a gifted story-teller with a fresh and interesting style. He is clearly an intelligent and thoughtful man, able to offer his own insights into the story from his various travels. I also enjoyed his charming eye for the strange and humorous. Palin, for me, comfortably passes a test that most celebrities fail – that of being someone you would enjoy an evening in a pub with. I also liked the way he places the importance of the expedition in contemporary Canadian politics, bringing the story right up to date. Really enjoyable.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,646 followers
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January 28, 2022
Solidly researched and written tale of Erebus, the ship used by James Clark Ross on his Antarctic expeditions, and then John Franklin on his doomed effort at the North West Passage, plus its companion ship the Terror. It's a well presented and detailed serious narrative history, done something of a disservice by the over-promising blurbs that claim it's full of zizz and laughs.
September 20, 2020
Pellegrini dell’Oceano
Erebo, figlio di Caos e di Caligine, personifica l’oscurità, gli Inferi.
Palin, attraverso un resoconto detagliato e coinvolgente, ci introduce magistralmente alla conoscenza dele vicende legate alla Erebus, ed alla sua gemella Terror.
Il titolo italiano è forse un po’ fuorviante, perché potrebbe far pensare ad un romanzo, ad una storia inventata; mentre il titolo originale “Erebus, The Story of a Ship”, testimonia l’intento dell’autore di riportare con assoluta fedeltà l’intera storia della nave. Ma nonostante le caretteristiche di saggio scientifico, Palin ha la rara abilità di renderlo accattivante, attraverso una narrazione avvincente e dettagliatissima, anche attraverso l’uso di mappe e fotografie dell’epoca, i dagherrotipi di Monsieur Daguerre...
Ma andiamo con ordine.
Nelle prime oore del mattino del 7 giugno 1826, presso il cantiere navale di Pembroke, in Galles, una folla curiosa ed eccitata assiste al varo di una ‘bombarda’, una nuova nave da guerra. Il suo nome è Erebus. Ma le guerre napoleoniche sono finite da un pezzo, Napoleone è morto a Sant’Elena il 5 maggio 1821. Gli inglesi sono ormai padroni dei mari.
La HMS (Her Majesty's Ship) Erebus viene perciò destinata al pattugliamento del Mediterraneo; ma qualche anno dopo viene attrezzata, insieme alla gemella HMS Terror, per la navigazione tra i ghiacci dell’Artico.
Nel 1839, al comando di James Clark Ross, le due navi salpano poi per la gloriosa spedizione in Antartide, dove le due navi, a vela!, e gli intrepidi equipaggi, sfidando venti gelidi, ghiaccio e iceberg immensi, portano ad importanti scoperte nel campo geografico, del magnetismo terrestre, della zoologia e della botanica.
Palin narra di queste avventure in una maniera così coinvolgente che spesso ti sembra di stare leggendo ... O’Brian! Tanto che (riportando indietro la storia di soli trent’anni!), quando l’Erebus e la Terror giungono in vista dell’Isola della Desolazione, ti aspetteresti di vedere spuntare da dietro un promontorio la Leopard, comandata dal Cavaliere dell'Ordine del Bagno... Jack Aubrey!
Al suo ritorno, anche Ross viene nominato Cavaliere.
Nel 1845 infine, sull’onda dei successi conseguiti da Ross e sulla base della grande affidabilità attribuita alle due navi, l’Erebus e la Terror, con ventiquattro ufficiali e centodieci uomini dell’equipaggio, partono per l’Artico, per la scoperta del Passaggio a Nord-ovest. Il comando della spedizione viene affidato a John Franklin, il quale, a seguito di una precedente, fallimentare spedizione, si era guadagnato il soprannome di “L’Uomo che si Mangiò gli Scarponi”.
Le due navi non faranno mai ritorno e le numerose spedizioni di soccorso porteranno solo al ritrovamento di alcune tombe e vari oggetti appartenuti ad uomini della spedizione.
L’interesse suscitato dalla scomparsa delle due navi però resterà sempre vivo. Tanto che, nel tempo, nuove spedizioni, testimonianze di inuit e iniziative isolate di marinai e studiosi, hanno portato a ricomporre il complesso puzzle della sciagurata spedizione. Fino ad arrivare al 2014, quando viene localizzato il relitto dell’Erebus e, due anni dopo, quello della Terror.
Palin ha ripercorso gran parte degli intinerari delle spedizioni ed ha visitato luoghi, musei, sedi di enti geografici. Ha esaminato carte nautiche e progetti delle navi, ha intervistato studiosi, esperti e addirittura eredi dei protagonisti dell’epoca.
Lavoro e impegno encomiabili.
Ne è risultato un lavoro eccellente ed un’opera impeccabile. Tanto da rendere evidenti (ai miei occhi, per carità) alcune fragilità della pur apprezzabilissima serie TV “The Terror”. La cruda e cupa tragedia che colpì questa spedizione avrebbe potuto essere infatti raccontata quasi con stile documentaristico, senza gli inserti horror del libro di Dan Simmons. La narrazione ne sarebbe risultata ancor più verosimile e senz'altro coinvolgente.
Interessantissimo. E per chi ama il mare e le sue storie... imprescindibile!
Profile Image for Bill.
876 reviews157 followers
January 3, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Erik.
109 reviews
October 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,333 reviews493 followers
February 11, 2019
Cheered on by a crowd of engineers, carpenters, blacksmiths, clerks and their families, the stout, broad-hulled warship they had been building for the past two years slides, stern first, down the slipway at Pembroke Dockyard. The cheers rise to a roar as she strikes the waters of Milford Haven. She bounces, bobs and shakes herself like a newborn waterfowl. Her name is Erebus.

It might be a Canadian thing to be fascinated by the doomed Franklin Expedition that ended on our northern limits – I watched several documentaries with my Dad that came out on the subject as I was growing up – and from the (maybe) tainted tinned goods they consumed to the (unmistakable) signs of cannibalism that eventual recovery missions discovered, this is a tragic tale that has long piqued my interest. Although a longtime Monty Python fan, I had never read one of Michael Palin's travel books before, so I looked forward to starting with his Erebus; a biography of sorts on the ship that Sir John Franklin captained off to its final, frigid resting place. This book is an amazing accumulation of research – from the shipbuilders' blueprints to extensive quotes from her sailors' journals and letters – and Palin paints a vivid and exhaustive story of HMS Erebus' twenty-some years of service. As a noted traveller himself, Palin retraced the routes of the Erebus during his research for this book, and his thoughts and experience from pole to pole breathe modern life into a Victorian tale. I enjoyed this very much and would read Palin again.

When I made a journey to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2014 the sight of a single whale was enough to bring everyone out on deck, reaching for cameras and binoculars. Sometimes, if you were very lucky, two or three would surface. Watching them was both compulsive and strangely soothing. Of all God's creatures, they seem the least prone to hurrying. Their lives seem to be the human equivalent of taking very long baths. When they did move, it was a performance of beauty and grace, of great weight moved with minimum effort. And there can surely be no better final bow than the languid, quietly powerful rise, flick and fall of the fluke. I like to think that those aboard Erebus drew similar comfort from the whales' company on the long and increasingly hazardous journey south.

I had read before that Erebus, alongside her sister ship HMS Terror, had been captained by James Clark Ross to the Antarctic in search of the Magnetic South Pole, but this part of her story was more vividly evoked here than elsewhere; in particular I marvelled at the mental image of the ice-covered active volcano that Ross fittingly named Mount Erebus. And as for the later Arctic expedition, there wasn't much here that I hadn't already read. Even so, I found value in having the whole story of this ship's lifespan laid out in this way, encapsulating as it does a particular slice of time during the Age of Discovery; a rare time of peace during which the British Navy refitted warships to explore the globe and name, measure, and collect all that they found out there. The one complaint that I would have about this book is the way that Palin brings modern sensibilities to bear on the efforts of these intrepid explorers: I don't need to be told that imperialism, the extermination of native peoples, and the over-extraction of natural resources – and in particular, animals – isn't justified by “the spirit of Enlightenment”. In one stirring chapter, Erebus and Terror got tangled together as they tried to steer through a narrow passageway in an otherwise unbroken series of icebergs, and employing a last ditch effort to put his ship into reverse (under sail power), Ross was able to disentangle the ships and narrowly avoid the crushing wall of ice. Palin quotes from several of the sailors' journals and letters as they later thank God for their safe passage, and then he unnecessarily lectures the reader:

The sternboard manoeuvre that Ross and his crew executed in the most dire and dangerous situation would have been a great gamble at any time. It was this almighty risk, rather than the Almighty himself, that saved the lives of his men.

Palin uncovered much fascinating information – trapped in pack ice off Antarctica on New Year's Day of 1842, the crews of both ships carved a ballroom into the snow and Captain Crozier of the Terror and Captian Ross (in drag) led the dancing; DNA testing of bones from the Franklin Expedition reveal that four of the skeletons had no Y chromosomes (as they were definitely European, either the Y chromosomes had deteriorated, or these seamen were seawomen in disguise) – and I can't fault the comprehensive scholarship behind this effort. And as the insertion of Palin's own thoughts and experience did elevate this book beyond dull textbook-level material for me, I can't ultimately fault him for stretching the limits of what I wanted to hear from him. Overall, a fine read; one that made me glad to be indoors as the snow falls and the wind howls outside my walls.
Profile Image for nettebuecherkiste.
506 reviews124 followers
June 17, 2022
Ich war einigermaßen fasziniert von der Verfilmung des Romans „The Terror“ und wenn mein Lieblings-Python Michael Palin sich des Themas in einem Sachbuch annimmt, kann ich nicht widerstehen. So berichtet uns Palin ausführlich von den Reisen der beiden Schiffe, inklusive ausführlicher Charakterisierungen der jeweiligen Kapitäne und Offiziere. Das macht er so gut, dass das Buch sich spannend wie ein Roman liest. Vor allem auf die letzte, tragische Reise der Erebus mit dem Ziel der Entdeckung der Nordwestpassage war ich gespannt. Das Buch enthält natürlich auch einige Karten und Bilder – die Bilder der im Eis perfekt konservierten Leichen einiger Besatzungsmitglieder, die unterwegs starben, fand ich ziemlich verstörend.

Ich empfehle das Buch wärmstens allen, die sich für Polarforschung und das Schicksal der beiden Schiffe und ihrer Besatzung interessieren. Jetzt will ich unbedingt auch noch den Roman von Dan Simmons lesen.
Profile Image for Olaf Gütte.
170 reviews69 followers
January 9, 2020
Als 2014 nach 165 Jahren das Wrack der "Erebus" endlich gefunden wurde,
stieg das Interesse am Schicksal dieses Schiffes und der damit verbundenen
Entdeckung der Nordwestpassage wieder sprunghaft an.
Auch Michael Palin, bekannt aus "Monty Python konnte sich diesem Thema
nicht verschließen und schrieb diese hochinteressante Erzählung
über das Schicksal der "Erebus" und ihres Schwesterschiffs "Terror".
Bemerkenswert ist seine umfangreiche Recherche, zu deren Zweck er
um die ganze Welt reiste.
Profile Image for Ericka Seidemann.
143 reviews22 followers
October 17, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Will Ansbacher.
296 reviews84 followers
March 14, 2019
This is a really interesting story of polar exploration from a slightly different angle. Michael Palin has focussed on the ships – the Erebus mainly, but also her sister ship the Terror – that were the common elements of two great Antarctic and Arctic expeditions in the 1840’s, as England obsessively attempted to be the first to discover the extreme ends of the earth.

The first, magnificently successful voyage was a four-year, three-winter discovery of the Antarctic, led by James Clark Ross, notable for sailing through pack ice to discover the Ross ice shelf. A year later, the ships were led by John Franklin on the ill-fated attempt on the North West Passage.

They have of course been covered several times before, but not I think with this particular slant. Palin has an engaging chatty style which more often reads like travelogue rather than history; and having visited many of the locales himself, is great at conflating descriptions of the original voyages with his own impressions.

Erebus isn’t limited to these two explorations, either. Apart from some background about the years leading up to these voyages, Palin has a pretty good account of all the efforts that went into discovering the fate of the Franklin expedition, up to the time when the Erebus was rediscovered, and he ends with his own travels to the site of the wreck.

Erebus also has a great selection of engravings, pictures and photographs; and – unusually - excellent maps. Nice work, Michael!
Profile Image for Nigel.
789 reviews84 followers
September 24, 2021
I'd say this is one of the better historical non-fiction books I've read. Over the years I've read a number of polar exploration books so I was familiar with aspects of this story. However I confess I'd forgotten that the Erebus had a number of voyages of exploration before the final one. This book covers the story of the ship very well and without being deeply technical. In doing so it looks a those involved with the ship and society at the time. Add in some entertaining asides by Mr Palin and I thoroughly enjoyed this. There has been a lot of research behind this book and I found some of the quotes fascinating.
Profile Image for Yigal Zur.
Author 9 books126 followers
November 8, 2019
great travel book. one of the best i read for years. Palin really have the touch for it. it is a story of boat, of exploration but above all of daring people. the two major parts are the exploration of antarctica which was led by Ross. amazing story. and the last part the tragic story of Franklin and his crew to try and find the north-west passage. great tale and read. should give it 4.5
Profile Image for Chris Steeden.
422 reviews
January 17, 2019
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.

Erebus


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.

Erebus


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.


Erebus


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.
Profile Image for Mosco.
385 reviews36 followers
June 16, 2020
Che io vada matta per viaggi di scoperta e avventura lo sapete già (basta guardare la mia libreria), potevo farmi mancare questo libro? Certo che no. E ho fatto bene! Già avevo letto il bellissimissimo I ragazzi di Barrow di Fergus Fleming, che racconta dei tempi d'oro (e dell'isteria britannica) dell'esplorazione polare e della ricerca del passaggio a nord ovest. Palin, (sì, quello dei Monty Phyton), viaggiatore e ottimo documentarista, racconta senza svolazzi, basandosi su documentazione ufficiale, diari di bordo, lettere e diari personali, la storia di due delle navi di Barrow, la Erebus e la Terror, impegnate prima nella ricerca del polo sud magnetico poi del mitico passaggio a nord-ovest. Racconta proprio tutto: dall'armamento, le modifiche fatte per consolidare gli scafi, il curriculum degli ufficiali, la quantità di provviste, le casse di cibarie, le leggerezze, equipaggiamenti ridicoli, appaltatori disonesti; gli scazzi fra ufficiali, la vita a bordo, usi e costumi della Royal Navy...(basta elenchi, sembro Salvini!) il tutto senza far venire la barba dalla noia. Poi i viaggi, impensabili per tempistiche, fatica, rischi pazzeschi in luoghi sconosciuti in stagioni durissime. Avventura a tutto tondo. E infatti, nel viaggio verso nord al comando di Sir John Franklin (quello che si mangiò gli scarponi), le due navi scompaiono. E di loro, di preciso, non si saprà più nulla per quasi due secoli.
Negli anni è rimasta sempre alta l'attenzione e la curiosità sulla loro fine e nel 2014 e 2016, a seguito di decenni di ricerche, sono stati ritrovati nell'Artico canadese i due relitti affondati. Cosa sia successo, come siano arrivati lì e la fine dell'equipaggio resta un mistero. Discreta, ma non sterminata, la bibliografia.
Bel libro, interessante, letto molto volentieri.
E adesso dopo il saggio la fiction: vado a spararmi Terror di Dan Simmons. Vedremo.
Profile Image for Rob Thompson.
471 reviews44 followers
November 23, 2018
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."
Profile Image for Sophie Crane.
3,521 reviews115 followers
February 16, 2020
This was Radio 4's book of the week, and I caught a couple of episodes. I had already decided I'd probably get the book, although I was pretty familiar with the Franklin story and the repeated attempts on the North West Passage, have several books on the topic and a forebear who commanded an early Arctic Naval expedition in which Franklin commanded the smaller vessel (shamefully not mentioned by M. Palin!)
It was never less than riveting, the research was excellent, and even reading it in Kindle version with the pictures all at the end, it was a superb read. Of course the Canadians' discovery of the wreck of the Erebus (and later the Terror) added to the immediacy of it all. I found it moving, and maddening by turns. I'd never seen the reproduced daguerrotypes of the Erebus's officers - so revealing . It was, as the title implies, a story of the ship, so there was the interesting early years and the great Antarctic expeditions of James Clark Ross where HM Ships Erebus & Terror gave their names to the volcanoes and lands of the deepest south. I always think of Ross (Ice shelf), Weddell (Sea) but now add the unfortunate Crozier to the geography of the frozen areas of the world. Michael Palin really brought the characters, and their various jostlings for position and favour, to life. A fantastic read for anyone who is interested in this field, and maybe an eye opener for those with a general interest in history who are merely tempted by the famous name of the author.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,664 reviews277 followers
June 19, 2019
Interesting and detailed book about the journeys of this ship and its discovery
Profile Image for Ярослава.
761 reviews293 followers
Read
February 17, 2021
Вирішила, що раз надворі -20 і сніги, то саме час читати про дослідження Арктики й Антарктики у 19 столітті. Власне, половину книжки (до кінця вдалої антарктичної експедиції Росса) я читала ще кілька років тому, але відклала перед розділом про трагічну експедицію Франкліна, бо вирішила, що й так відчуваю щодо цього забагато емоцій, а тут нарешті дочитала. Книжка дуже симпатична - якщо ви теж у дитинстві зачитувалися якимось Жюлем Верном, а потім почитали "Терор" Сіммонса, то дуже ймовірно, що "Еребус" Пейліна вас також потішить.
Якщо ж ви того всього не читали, то зав'язка цього нонфікшну така: після кінця наполеонівських воєн у Британії виявляється якась кількість зайвого ресурсу, матеріального і людського, і його треба кудись приткнути. Вчорашні військові кораблі й бойові офіцери швиденько перепрофільовуються, й так починається зокрема епоха серйозних досліджень Арктики й Антарктики. Два кораблі - "Еребус" і Террор" - стануть основою однієї з найгучніших історій успіху в цьому жанрі, й одразу по тому основою найбільшої трагедії, коли ціла експедиція на 129 людей зникне у льодах північної Канади так ґрунтовно, що кораблики шукали аж 150 років і знайшли тільки �� ХХІ столітті, а обгризені кісточки учасників експедиції теж збирають донині по цілому узбережжю.
Британський автор, актор (і учасник "Монті Пайтона") Майкл Пейлін розказує історію "Еребуса" дуже натхненно, так що подих перехоплює від зухвальства і сміливості тих людей, які на багато років ішли у незнане, щоб повернутися з уточненими картами й магнетичними замірами (або не повернутися взагалі). (Серйозно, ці експедиції були страшнішими, ніж польоти в космос нині, бо он нині люди з МКС успішно ведуть соцмережі, а тоді на багато місяців чи й років втрачали весь контакт із цивілізацією.) При цьому Пейлін намагається скласти об'ємну картину зі щоденників і листування різних членів експедиції, тож панорама виявляється неоднозначною - там, де керівники експедиції виявляють завзяття й рішучість іти до кінця, нижчі прошарки розказують, що краще б уже додомку, бо це вже не про здоровий глузд: "Honor, empty honor retained the officers". 
І все це розказується з приємним гумором (скажімо, чого вартий пасаж про полярну топоніміку: "One thing that struck me was how many of the names given to physical features mirrored the mental states of those who named them. Apart from Danger Islets, there is Cape Longing, Cape Disappointment, Delusion Point and Exasperation Bay, only slightly compensated for by Useful Island on the other side of the peninsula"; чи сценка на російському кораблі, де команда захоплюється, що в них пливе справжній кіноактор, а Пейлін соромиться розказати, що його остання роль - це Молотов у "Смерті Сталіна").
І всі ці полярні історії здаються дуже віддаленими в нашому маленькому, глобальному, технологічному світі (ще й з усіма його кліматичними змінами!), але фінальний акцент в історії нагадує, що перед тими шматками землі ми й досі безпорадні.
Загалом, дуже душевно.
Profile Image for Boadicea.
184 reviews50 followers
August 17, 2020
Erebus is, apparently in Greek mythology, the personification of darkness. It therefore seems appropriate to be the name of an Antarctic volcano, that further lived up to its name when, on 28th November 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 flew into its slopes, killing all on board. It remains to this day, the single greatest loss of life to affect this small nation and eventually was proven to be due to human error on the part of the logistics staff, not the pilot, who was initially scapegoated.
In some ways, there are parallels with this book which follows the adventures of HMS Erebus, built in a Pembroke dockyard as a 'bomb' vessel but kitted out pretty quickly for Polar exploration.
Initially, she explored the North Pole and allowed James Clark Ross to claim British discovery of the North Magnetic Pole to the disgust of his uncle, her captain.
Then, the sights of the naval top brass looked South to Antarctica and I am amazed that an expedition South lasted 3 whole winters in these climes before returning home after some hair-raising adventures and some great good luck. So that is why there is the Ross ice shelf, McMurdo Sound, and many other contributions to geographic features were contributed to, by this revolutionary exploration. She then returns home the long way via Rio de Janeiro but there is a clear sense of cabin fever at this point as relationships amongst her occupants deteriorate!
Then, she returns to the North Pole under the captaincy of erstwhile disgraced Tasmanian governor, Sir John Franklin and her luck runs out with a combination of misfortune, severely adverse weather, human error and possibly chemical poisoning. This ensures that the expedition does not return.
Michael Palin clearly has done extensive research on this historical narrative as befits a past President of the British Geographical Society. The book reads as he likes to present in film with a very personable approach; he has visited many of the ports of call and his fact-finding missions give a local flavour to her voyages that clearly enhances the story.
However, why not 5 stars? The maps are good and self-explanatory, the index appears inclusive, the photographs and renditions of the engravings colourful and enhance the story, his comments on colonial expansionism and imperialism are appropriate if mild and my favourite book of last year, The Heart of Darkness provides an appropriate prologue...
Perhaps, it is the inability to provide footnotes when they were clearly appropriate? Instead, there is an anthology of references utilised at the end of the book to address the sources of gleaned information but it is not always easy to ascertain where he has sourced particular facts.
Also, I was perhaps left slightly flattened by the ending. He had been well-focussed up to this point although the journalist was clearly in ascendance rather than the novelist and his skills appeared to lessen in this absence of knowledge where the latter's skills would have prevailed. I felt that he lost his way slightly perhaps failing to grasp the Inuit indigenous story which marred his tale somewhat. Maybe, I have spent too much time recently lapping up the tales of a certain Joseph Conrad and paying obeisance to his legendary powers to feel at the behest of a lesser writer?
So, an entertaining easy read which educated but I doubt that I will read it again.
Profile Image for Peter.
455 reviews43 followers
January 30, 2019
As a Canadian, the story and the tragedy of the Franklin exploration is one that is never far from the surface of our collective mythology. When then Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his announcement of the finding of the first ship, it made the headlines in both print and electronic media. With the finding of the Erebus, our country was once again fascinated. And here I am today, it’s -32C with the wind chill in Toronto, and I’ve just finished Michael Palin’s book. For the last five years I lived in Victoria, British Columbia. At the bottom of my street was the Coast Guard dock where the Sir Wilfred Laurier moored. This ship was instrumental in the search for and discovery of the Franklin ships. I don���t recount this to brag, but to reflect on how history is much more meaningful when you can be surrounded by it, involved in it, immersed in it, in any way.

This book gives a detailed and informative look at both the life of Sir John Franklin and, more importantly, of HMS “Terror” And HMS “Erebus.” Palin takes us back to the ships’ beginnings. We see their plans, we then sail with the crews and suffer with them as the ships explore and move through the Antarctic.

Next, we see the ships as they languish in dock in England. We experience Lady Jane Franklin’s energy to get the ships for her husband. We work beside Sir John Franklin as the ships are rebuild and provisioned for their exploration to the Arctic. Finally, we read Palin as he documents, speculates and draws on the resources of earlier writers to piece together the enormous struggle the crews faced in the Arctic.

There is much to be amazed at with these men. For me, it was the sense of time. They did not face a few cold days on a ship. Rather, they were ice-bound for years in weather and conditions which are inconceivable to me.

Palin is a fine writer and the book was engrossing to read. If I could I would give it 4 1/2 stars. My only quibble, and this is one I have with many history books and biographies, is that while a complete bibliography is given, within the letterpress there is often no indication of where the source of a letter, an historical reference, or other material of research was initially resourced. Such footnoting seems to be fading in most recent biographies and other material. I, for one, enjoy plowing through footnotes.

Nevertheless, this is a must read for anyone interested in British Naval history, The Franklin Expedition, Artic exploration, or Canadian history.

Profile Image for Shahin Keusch.
36 reviews12 followers
March 19, 2022
It was a slow start with this book, but then I just couldn't put it down. Michael Palin did such a great job telling the story of the ship Erebus and all those who rode it on its trip to the Antarctic and then on its failed quest to find the north west passage. You really get an idea of what is was like to ride a ship in the early to mid 19th Century. I love Michael Palin's travel shows and This book is no different. Highly recommended. 
Profile Image for Timothy.
Author 1 book11 followers
October 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Elchamaco.
467 reviews27 followers
July 30, 2020
Un libro bastante interesante, aunque al principio sobre todo se dan bastantes datos, y son más para centrar el tiro y la época luego se mete más de lleno en las dos expediciones principales que tuvo el barco con su amigo el Terror. Está bastante interesante siempre que te guste el tema. Me han dado ganas de leer el de Dan Simmons de El Terror.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,079 reviews8 followers
December 20, 2019
This is a very fine book about the travels of a ship and the people who were on it, and if that's what you're looking for, you've found it. I was looking for something more engaging than a typical historian's take on it, and didn't find it here. This book has everything a common history book has - using lots and lots of primary sources to tell the story, conjecture with gobs of OTOH-BOTOH (on the one hand, but on the other hand), and weaving additional levels of complexity into a story. But it just wasn't very gripping or engaging. I wouldn't have picked this book up if it wasn't written by Michael Palin, and this book felt like it wasn't written by Michael Palin. (I'm sure it was, he's a smart dude, but this book's authorship didn't feel like it played to his strengths.)
Profile Image for Moloch.
507 reviews620 followers
September 11, 2020
Estremamente godibile. Di solito non amo molto i saggi divulgativi (preferisco, nelle materie in cui sono più preparata, quelli con un approccio più scientifico e rigoroso, con apparati di note, bibliografia, linguaggio "sostenuto": questione di gusti), e ancora meno quando l'autore si inserisce in prima persona nell'argomento trattato, ma questo libro evidentemente è stata la classica eccezione. Con linguaggio semplice ma accurato, e con tono umanamente partecipe, spiritoso e divertente quando serve e quanto basta, rispettoso e commosso dove è più opportuno, Palin dà una marea di informazioni sulle navi, sulla corsa alle esplorazioni che dominò la Marina britannica dopo la fine delle guerre napoleoniche, sulla sete di scoperte scientifiche unita all'orgoglio imperialista, sulle personalità dei protagonisti, sulla vita a bordo, narrando contemporaneamente anche il suo personale viaggio sulle tracce della nave, sugli stessi luoghi a distanza di due secoli, con tutt'altri mezzi e con tutt'altri occhi, da Capo Horn all'isola di Beechey, dove dà un ultimo saluto alle tombe di tre componenti della spedizione Franklin lì sepolti.

Come giustamente rileva questa recensione, il titolo italiano un po' inganna, perché si focalizza sulla tragica vicenda della scomparsa dell'Erebus e della sua compagna, la Terror, con i loro equipaggi, fra i ghiacci dell'Artico. Si potrebbe credere dunque che il libro sia "solo" la storia della catastrofica spedizione di Franklin, partita in pompa magna nel 1845 per individuare il Passaggio a Nord-Ovest e mai più ritornata, e oggetto di tante ricerche, supposizioni, leggende, indagini, trasposizioni su libro e sullo schermo (consiglio caldamente la serie TV The Terror), e invece Palin narra tutta la vita della nave Erebus, non solo il mistero della sua fine (e infatti il titolo originale è Erebus: The Story of a Ship): dalla sua costruzione nei cantieri navali alle prime missioni nel Mediterraneo, dalla sua lunga missione, questa sì di successo, in Antartide al comando di Ross, all'ultima volta che viene vista allontanarsi fra i ghiacci carica di uomini e di ottimismo per la ricerca del Passaggio a Nord-ovest nel 1845, e fino al suo tanto sospirato ritrovamento, dopo più di un secolo di tentativi, sul fondo del mare artico, nel 2014 (nel 2016 verrà individuata anche la Terror, poco distante).

Splendide le immagini a corredo del testo.
Profile Image for Anna Ricco.
146 reviews15 followers
November 12, 2020
Ho cercato di rimandare all'inverosimile il momento in cui avrei riposto questo magnifico documento,le avventure dell'erebus e della sua sorella terror mi hanno accompagnata in questi ultimi due mesi,incuriosendomi e istruendomi. Questo libro è un resoconto scritto magnificamente, sul mistero che per più di 160 anni ha tenuto svegli gli storici e non, sugli ultimi giorni di queste due navi,di cui si era persa traccia. L autore ci narra chiaramente e senza troppi tecnicismi la nascita e le avventure dell' Erebus,che nata alla fine delle guerre napoleoniche venne successivamente attrezzata per l'esplorazione dell'artico,per le ricerche sul magnetismo e per scoprire il passaggio al nord ovest del circolo polare artico. A sostegno di questo documento, numerose fonti sono state magistralmente raccolte e analizzate:le mappe disegnate a bordo,le lettere che i marinai mandarono alle famiglie, i diari di bordo e di viaggi dei capitani e degli ufficiali,le annotazioni sulle scoperte scientifiche,zoologiche e naturalistiche dei medici di bordo,le carte dell'ammiraglia ti britannico ecc.. una lettura davvero stimolante che consiglio a tutti gli appassionati di storia,perché la scrittura è davvero alla portata di tutti. Magnifiche anche le fotografie in bianco e nero correlate,le mappe disegnate dagli ufficiali e i disegni dei bellissimi paesaggi artici.
Profile Image for  Bon.
999 reviews75 followers
April 7, 2020
I really enjoyed this! It offered a refreshing take on the Franklin Expedition mystery, offering historical context and insight beyond just the doomed voyage. It was fascinating to hear about the construction of the ships and their first expedition together, to the Antarctic. My biggest takeaway, afforded by this being such a recent book, is the theory that several of the sailors on the expedition could have been female, judging by absences of Y chromosomes in some remains. It’s a thin theory, owing to the fact that DNA can simply deteriorate, but a fascinating new rabbit hole to go down nonetheless. I had no clue Palin was an author and historian, and his narration of the audiobook was great.
99 reviews5 followers
May 10, 2019
If you're looking for much of Michael Palin's personality or humor you're reading the wrong book. What you will get is a solid narrative from a passionate (and, yes, witty) amateur historian about two amazing adventures. I don't know if this is a book I will think back on and ponder, but it is a fascinating window to a time when The Unknown was a prominent character and those who set out to meet her did so at their own peril.
Profile Image for Noa.
190 reviews8 followers
March 7, 2019
Such a fun and interesting read! Especially in tandem with watching the show The Terror, which is a fictional, supernatural account of the second great voyage of the Erebus and her sister ship Terror. It reads like a British documentary, in a good way.
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