Thursday, March 18, 2010

FFB: The Brendan Voyages by Tim Severn

FFB: The Brendan Voyage by Timothy Severin

This one's for my Dad who would have turned 67 this Sunday.
I recall as a young boy my Dad telling me that of course it wasn't Columbus who discovered the new world, and it wasn't even the Vikings (who had been our ancestors) it was in fact and Irish Monk named Brendan! I am pretty sure that it was this book that was the basis of his assertion.

When I started working at the local library a couple of years back, I found myself walking past this book every day and think that "I swear that my dad had this book on those white book shelves that ran along the back of our living room wall". Thoes shelves were lined with books, mainly my mothers, but my Dad had some space for his books as well. He was a true Peterson, he didn't really beleive in reading all that made up stuff, and he tended towards non-fiction. He liked landscaping, nature and of course boats--- which is why he would have been drawn to this weeks Friday Forgotten Book.

From the Inside Flap:
"Could an Irish monk in the sixth century really have sailed all the way across the Atlantic in a small open boat, thus beating Columbus to the New World by almost a thousand years? Relying on the medieval text of St. Brendan, award-winning adventure writer Tim Severin painstakingly researched and built a boat identical to the leather curragh that carried Brendan on his epic voyage. He found a centuries-old, family-run tannery to prepare the ox hides in the medieval way; he undertook an exhaustive search for skilled harness makers (the only people who would know how to stitch the three-quarter-inch-thick hides together); he located one of the last pieces of Irish-grown timber tall enough to make the mainmast. But his courage and resourcefulness were truly tested on the open seas, including one heart-pounding episode when he and his crew repaired a dangerous tear in the leather hull by hanging over the side--their heads sometimes submerged under the freezing waves--to restitch the leather. A modern classic in the tradition of Kon-Tiki, The Brendan Voyage seamlessly blends high adventure and historical relevance. It has been translated into twenty-seven languages since its original publication in 1978."

When I finally sat down to read The Brendan Voyage, I was transported to a time when people were still looking for adventure and answeres. Maybe we still are, could all of those One Year of Living... books be more than a cash grab? Anyway, I found the book a fascinating and readable story. Covering the research and building of the boat and then the sailing of it from the British Isles to Iceland and then to the coast of North America. I liked not only the historical/ anthropological aspect of the book, but also the pure adventure of it. That's what I keep coming back to when I think of the book, adventure, danger and testing one's self against the world. We live in a world that is largely tamed, mapped and safe. There seems to be so little left to discover and so few oppurtunities to stand on the edge and look into the void of the unknown.

I recall being on Cap Cod once with my family and my dad and I were standing near the edge of natural harbor looking down into the water. I didn't want to get close to the edge, as I have a fear of heights. There was no gaurd rails, just dirt and black rock, I recall him walking almost to the very edge and looking down. It scared me, I had horrible visions of his falling, but he didn't, he just looked out over the waters and I know he was dreaming of sailing over them.

No comments: