Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: Hodding Carter's A Viking Voyage

I took A Viking Voyage to Greenland and that turned out to be a very good choice.

Not only did it involve sailing in similar waters (actually west rather than east coast of Greenland) but also it was a fantastic read.

But to top it all their adventures seemed at times to be echoing ours:

  • Bad weather forces them to shelter in a fjord - check
  • Ice bergs scrape off hull - check
  • Have to get a tow - check
  • Spot a polar bear - check
  • Have stewed whale - check

The book recounts how W. Hodding Carter, fascinated by the Vikings and intrigued by the story of how they "discovered" America decided to re-enact Leif Eriksson's voyage from Greenland to Newfoundland, in a replica boat.

The best thing is that he doesn't hold back and tells it warts and all, and the book is certainly the better for it. The trials and tribulations of building the boat are nothing to the problems they have when their rudder fails in the middle of the Davis Strait, causing an ignominious rescue by the Canadian Coast Guard.

It was certainly a tough voyage, not just weeks but months spent in an open boat (!) above the Arctic Circle where rains and winds are not gentle. It was an all male crew and there were times of beer and fart jokes, but maybe that make the reconstruction all the more accurate. The descriptions of the crew are well rounded, making them feel like real people.

All in all a rollicking good sailing yarn that sounds true in all senses of the word. I found myself rationing chapters and wishing it was longer.

So that's a hearty roar of approval with two Viking axes held up high.

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