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This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it thirty years ago. In fact, one scene has always stayed in my mind. In the spirit of Thor Heyerdahl, whose books I also loved, Tim Severin set out to prove that St. Brendan really could have sailed all the way from the Irish coast to America using the leather boats--curraghs--of the sixth century.

The book details the legend and Mr. Severin's foolhardy but successful attempt, in 1976-77, to build a boat of his own and duplicate the sailing feat--4500 miles, up into the Faroes to Iceland and across to Newfoundland (Peckford Island in the Outer Wadham Group)--having been met by the Canadian navy. His small crew featured the unforgettable Faeroese artist Tróndur Patursson, who not only fished and trapped sea birds for food but at one point harpooned a whale.

Unquestionably the most memorable portion of their quest though occurred when they got trapped amidst drifting pack ice in the Greenland Sea. They spent a harrowing time trying to avoid chunks of ice that seemed capable of crushing the boat and eventually had to repair a potentially boat-sinking hole that got poked in their side, plunging hands into freezing ocean to sew the leather shut. It's thrilling stuff, even if you wonder about the sanity of the project.

So I was intrigued to find a documentary about the voyage on-line. It was apparently a presentation of RTE television in Ireland based on filming done ion-board by Severin and crew. The film is not available at Amazon, but the torrent site Demonoid has it. While the book does a great job of conveying what it was like in the boat, being buffeted by a gale and bobbing through the ice, the actual footage has to be seen to be believed. A portion of the film is embedded above. Both book and program are most highly recommended.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Tim Severin Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Tim Severin
    -EXCERPT: Storm from The Brendan Voyage (Random House)
    -ARTICLE: The Brendan Voyage (Pittsburgh Press, 6/11/1978)
    -FILM SITE: The Brendan Voyage (RTE Television)
    -GOOGLE BOOKS: Tim Severin
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Brendan Voyage
    -St. Brendan (Catholic Encyclopedia)
    -COMPOSER SITE: The Brendan Voyage ( -MUSIC: The Brendan Voyage, Composed by Shaun Davey (Tara Music)
    -ESSAY: Tim Severin's heaven on earth: the Banda Islands: The writer and explorer Tim Severin on the beautiful reefs and spicy cuisine of Indonesia's Banda Islands. (Tim Severin, 28 Jul 2009, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW : of Eight Men and a Duck: An Improbable Voyage by Reed Boat to Easter Island' by Nick Thorpe (Tim Severin, Washington Post)
    -INTERVIEW: An interview with Tim Severin (PanMacMillan)
    -PROFILE: Tim Severin: The Norse whisperer: Tim Severin has been hailed as one of our greatest living explorers. Now 64, he tells Peter Stanford why his Viking voyages will be undertaken in fiction (Peter Stanford, 1/21/05, Independent
    -PROFILE: In pursuit of Defoe's hairy hero: Tim Severin's new book will explode many of the myths surrounding the principal character of Daniel Defoe's classic tale (Arminta Wallace, 6/29/02, Irish Times)
    -INTERVIEW:Reluctant adventurer has nerves of steel - interview with Tim Severin (Joanne Hayden, 7/07/02, The Post)
    -PROFILE: Captain Retro: Is time traveler Tim Severin the greatest living explorer? Probably—but you'll never get him to admit it. (Mark Jenkins, June 2004, Outside)
    -ESSAY: Faroes - The Brendan Voyage: Explorer Tim Sevrin and Trøndur Patursson recreate legendary voyage (Hugh Taylor, Feb 21, 2007, Suite 101: N Europe Travel )
    -ESSAY: Irish Monks and the Voyage of St. Brendan (Heritage NF)
    -EXCERPT: The Tradition of Saint Brendan's Voyage to America (From A History of the Irish Settlers in North America by Thomas D'Arcy McGee)
    -ESSAY: The Voyage of Beyond the Sea: Of all the peoples credited with the discovery of the Americas, the Irish usually come way down the list. This is unfair, argues Simon Young, as the sea-going exploits of Irish monks a thousand years before Columbus took them across the Western Ocean, beyond the known edge of the world. Unusually, their search for new lands had nothing to do with politics, empire-building or converting heathens, but a yearning to practise their faith as far away from noisy civilisation as possible. (Simon Young, October 2001, Fortean Times)
-REVIEW: of The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin (Cala Nayland)
    -REVIEW: of The Brendan Voyage (Chine Blog)
    -REVIEW: of The Brendan Voyage (mshawpyle, Epinions)
    -REVIEW: of The Brendan Voyage (The Irish Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Jason Voyage by Tim Severin (From the Cradle of Wine)
    -REVIEW: of TRACKING MARCO POLO. By Tim Severin (Sarah Ferrell, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of IN SEARCH OF GENGHIS KHAN By Tim Severin (Tim Cahill, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE SPICE ISLANDS VOYAGE: The Quest for Alfred Wallace, the Man Who Shared Darwin's Discovery of Evolution By Tim Severin (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of The Viking Trilogy by Tim Severin (Magnus Magnusson, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of Buccaneer: the Adventures of Hector Lynch by Tim Severin (Jeremy Jehu, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Corsair by Tim Severin (Dark Wolf Fantasy Review)
    -REVIEW: of Corsair (Jeremy Jehu, Daily Telegraph)

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