Cross the Pacific in a raft made from bamboo - You must be joking! I first read about this trip in a one-page National Geographic article, which didn't do the trip nor Tim Severin and his crew justice. A long-time fan of Mr.Severin, I know what to expect from his books; very intense, often repetitious eulogies on the strengths and weaknesses of the craft; the pros & cons of his theories and the methods used to explore the possibilities opened up by these theories. This book is no exception, refusing to take any modern assistance (except mandatory safety equipment), insisting on traditional materials and building techniques, he constructs a raft which has never been seen outside Vietnam for a century, in order to test his theory that Asian culture could have migrated via the Pacific (either by accident or design) to the Americas. The trip is punctuated by storms, any one of which would destroy your average 60foot yacht, but Hsu Fu calmly lets the mightiest waves run right through her, barely disturbing the crew at their supper. A bonus is that the raft needs no helmsman, once set on a tack she steers herself, her attendant shoals of fish ensure continuous supplies of fresh food, the only problem is after 5 months at sea, she's falling apart at the seams. Having seen the original Sindbad dhow (parked on a roundabout in Muscat, Oman), I can attest to the workmanship and attention to detail that goes into each one of Mr.Severin's boats, so it must have been heart-breaking for him to see his journey cut short by the break-up of the raft, due to no fault of his own, and so near to the final goal. I'd love to see the videos that they took on the voyage - the narrative gives you a real feeling of being at one with the sea, but I'd like to compare the picture in my head with the real thing. Thoroughly recommended reading; I'm just about to start on 'The Spice Islands Voyage - In Search of Wallace', which should combine two of my favourite subjects:- Exploration and Evolution ... more on that later.
Disappointed by this work. Compared with Severin's earlier books which I've read, , it just didn't hold my attention. And of course, neither did it help that the expedition turned into a magnificent failure.