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

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  977 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Intrepid voyager, writer and comedian Michael Palin follows the trail of two expeditions made by the Royal Navy's HMS Erebus to opposite ends of the globe, reliving the voyages and investigating the ship itself, lost on the final Franklin expedition and discovered with the help of Inuit knowledge in 2014.

The story of a ship begins after the defeat of Napoleon at Wate
Hardcover, First Canadian Edition, 352 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Random House Canada (first published September 20th 2018)
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4.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  977 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
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 watc
Bill Lynas
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Will Ansbacher
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polar, travel
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, not
Chris Steeden
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rob Thompson
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie☯
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 l ...more
Katia M. Davis
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always enjoy Michael Palin's books. Even better if one listens to the audiobook. Read an article about the Erebus and then discovered that Michael Palin has a book on the subject. It's written and researched well. Then we get the well-traveled author's perspective on the places that the ships, Erebus and Terror, have been to. One can see how it must have been during those times of discoveries. Sure, the motive is mainly colonialism, to spread British culture to the "uncivilized". But there is al ...more
Vitek Novy
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Palin, známý především jako někdejší člen britské komediální skupiny Monty Python, zde sepsal velice poutavé vyprávění o polárních cestách lodi HMS Erebus. Notně zde čerpal z deníků a dopisů jednotlivých členů posádky a tím sestavil vcelku komplexní obraz toho jak to na lodi vypadalo a jak se na ní žilo. Ke konci nabízí několik teorií ohledně tragického konce Franklinovy expedice. Skvělá kniha!
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gripping and fascinating story of the “Erebus” and its companion ship, “Terror”. Both were built as slow but strongly constructed and very stable bomb ships outfitted to fire shells against land-based armies. The older and slightly smaller “Terror” was actually used during the Napoleonic Wars but the war was over before the “Erebus” was ready for use. They were both then strengthened and adapted for polar exploration which remained their function and the two were always used together.

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!
Barry Martin Vass
This is a fascinating account of British Naval history. When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815 with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, Great Britain was heavily in debt and had a vast surplus of warships. Eventually these fighting ships were turned to exploration as Britain slowly changed course. And the ships ultimately chosen for Polar exploration were known as bomb vessels, or simply "bombs". They were short and squat (imagine a stubby, overbuilt tugboat with sails), and because they fired mortar ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Elizabeth Lloyd
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of heroes, the daring, handsome James Clark Ross, who mapped much of the Antarctic coastline, the unlucky John Franklin, whose ambitious adventurous spirit ended in a disastrous expedition and the gallant ship which linked their lives, the Erebus. It was the rediscovery of the wreck of HMS Erebus on the seabed in Queen Maud Gulf in 2014 that prompted this book.

Written by Michael Palin, whom we know so well as an adventurous traveller on our TV screens, this amazing story is an eas
Andrew Hall
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Palin covers the life of the HMS Erebus, and its crews, from its launch in 1826 until it vanished with its sister ship, the HMS Terror, in a search for the Northwest Passage in 1846. Palin is a witty but thorough story-teller. The story starts off a bit slow, but the relating of the 1839-1843 Ross Expedition to Antartica was fascinating, using a variety of diaries, letters, and other sources. The story of doomed 1845 Franklin expedition was gripping and chilling. With (almost) no remaining writt ...more
Laura HP
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I wouldn't have known about the Erebus, its sister ship Terror and even the Franklin Expedition, if it wasn't for Dan Simmon's epic novel "The Terror". To this day, that is one of the most exciting, chilling and impressive thrillers I have ever read and the fact that it was based on true events (at least to a certain degree) and so very well researched made it all the more tantalizing.

"Erebus" by Michael Palin took me back to those memories of wondering what might really have happened to that d
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As to be expected from Michael Palin, this is a captivating account of the story of Erebus and Terror, and Arctic (and Antarctic) expeditions in the mid-19th century. Although the book felt like it started out a bit slow, it soon picked up and became an absolutely fascinating story of adventure, sea travels and discovering uncharted lands.

Is there anything cooler than reading about the ins and outs of planning a large-scale expedition, the set-up of ships and cabins, and the incredibly challeng
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Phil Ford
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mrs B
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book. A truly fascinating and thought provoking story of the ships HMS Erebus and her sister ship HMS Terror and their expeditions to the Antarctic led by James Clark Ross and the then ill fated expedition to the Arctic led by Sir John Franklin. Really interesting to here how the ships were equipped before the Arctic expedition, when they were last heard of, theories about what happened and all about the rescue missions to find them and the recent finding of both of the shi ...more
Antonín Sander
Tato kniha ze mě udělala fanouška lodí. Je to mistrovské dílo vytesané do ledu. Michael Palin posbíral zápisky polárních námořníků a záznamy z tehdejšího tisku a čtenáři je předává ve skvostné formě, která mě pohltila. Autor se podíval takřka na všechna místa, kterými kdy loď Erebus (i Terror) plula a já měl pocit jako kdybych tam byl s ním.
Při četbě o utrpení námořníků mi bylo fyzicky zle. Toto dílo se vás dotkne. Mrazivé.
Výborný překlad Martiny Šímové.
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.
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Michael Edward Palin, CBE, 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