The Barnes & Noble Review
It's a miracle that Nick Thorpe's 8 Men and a Duck got written. When dreamer/adventurer Phil Buck set out to sail a reed boat across the Pacific from South America to Easter Island, British journalist Thorpe managed to tag along as a "crew member," never mind the fact that his own sailing résumé consisted mostly of capsizing sailboats into Thames River sewage and being a second-string college rower on a boat nicknamed "Eeyore."
The group's noble (or nutty, depending upon your viewpoint) mission was to complete the "missing link" voyage in the explorer Thor Heyerdahl's still-controversial theory of Polynesian/Amerindian migrations. But fitful funding, media mudslinging from a failed rival, prevoyage crew (and crucial equipment) defections, and swindling tow boat operators almost sank the Viracocha expedition before it ever left the shoreline. Once the boat was launched, the sailing didn't get much smoother; in fact, close encounters with sharks, steamships, and storms (both meteorological and interpersonal) make the eventual Easter Island landfall seem a downright preposterous and completely glorious achievement.
Thorpe adroitly chronicles this watery and wonderful theater of the absurd with appropriately deadpan understatement and genuine admiration for his fellow crew members and their quest. (Janet Dudley)
When British travel writer and all-around thrill seeker Thorpe was traveling the wilds of Bolivia by bus, he passed the time by eavesdropping on a Frenchman talking to an Australian about a boat made of reeds. The conversation seemed more interesting than your average cross-cultural traveler exchange, so Thorpe listened intently as the Frenchman talked about legendary voyager Thor Heyerdahl and about continuing his legacy, about building this reed boat in Huatajata and sailing to Easter Island in it just eight men and a duck. Thorpe's enthusiasm for this insanity was such that he had to get involved. And not just as a documentarian: an original crew member dropped out, Thorpe dropped in and soon the journalist found himself making sails. The resulting narrative is witty, sad and as brave and daft as those who sail. Thorpe's British self-deprecation and eye for detail legitimize his passing comments on his fellow crew members, providing comic relief in an often claustrophobic text. A master of tension, Thorpe mingles storms, bruised egos, paranoia, food shortages, botched launchings, lamented loved ones and utterly inept seamanship into a tale of triumph against the odds. In Thorpe's hands, a travelogue becomes a comedy of errors, a farce, a Latinate epic and a picaresque tale. It's a warm, wonderful book, a story of enthusiasm superseding expertise in which Fate smiles favorably. (June) Forecast: This lighthearted take on the sea adventure is sure to attract word-of-mouth attention. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Scottish award-winning journalist and travel writer Thorpe happened upon this "improbable" adventure while riding a bus in Bolivia. He overheard a conversation about an ambitious voyage across the Pacific and instantly decided to join in. Phil Buck, the American who conceived and led the voyage, believed that Thor Heyerdahl's controversial migration theories could be proven with the Viracocha, a modern copy of a pre-Incan boat made of totora reeds. He recruited a local crew and employed local reed boat builders to make the craft. The only problem was that since reeds absorb water, the boat would start sinking as soon as it was launched. In this entertaining story of the 44-day journey, Thorpe recounts the many difficulties crew members encountered, such as storms and ship and shark sightings. Although the eight-man crew ultimately prevailed, when they reached Easter Island they learned that their sinking ship could not be saved and had to be burned. This well-written story is sure to be popular in public libraries. John Kenny, San Francisco P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Partly to confirm controversial theories and the 1947 voyage of Thor Heyerdahl, partly from a deficiency of more sensible hobbies, a group of men decided to sail a reed boat, the , from Chile 2,500 miles across the Pacific to Easter Island. Travel writer Thorpe heard about the plan, talked his way aboard, and lived to tell the tale. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Thorpe's firsthand account of his experience as a crewmember on the Viracocha, a boat made of reeds that sailed the 2,000 miles from Chile to Easter Island. At the dawn of the new millennium, professional adventurer and Thor Heyerdahl fan Phil Buck was on the shores of Lake Titicaca overseeing the finishing touches to a reed boat christened the Viracocha (another name for Kon-Tiki). No flimsy raft, the Viracocha was 60 feet long, had two masts, and was a masterwork of pre-Incan-style workmanship created by a local family who specialized in the traditional craft; Buck planned to sail her to Easter Island in a further exploration of Heyerdahl's theories. Thorpe, a wandering Scottish journalist with a very understanding wife, stumbled across the project and, immediately enchanted, lucked into a space onboard. The account that follows, told in his addictive, self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek style, is nearly unbelievable, from the trials of actually getting the boat launched to the final moments of the Viracocha at Easter Island. Once underway, the craft practically sailed herself for much of the journey. A good thing, as the electronics and generating system failed, one right after the other, and the sails were a pure experiment (they had been created by Thorpe himself in the absence of anyone with greater knowledge of sail craft-he had none, either, but had nothing else to do before the expedition launched). Despite the capricious nature of the voyage, the almost staggering lack of experience of the crew, and the constant presence of sharks, most of the drama comes from the interaction of the eight men and their duck mascot, together 24 hours a day for a month and a half. Thorpe's maidenvoyage as an author is wholly absorbing and completely irresistible.