Thursday, December 01, 2005

Skeletons on the Zahara

Skeletons in the ZaharaMy body spent the morning babysitting a live truck outside Winston-Salem's Sawtooth Center, but my mind stumbled across the scorching desert floor of northwest Africa, flanked by 19th century sailors who'd survived a shipwreck only to be enslaved by the nomadic Sahrawi tribes. The fate of the Connecticut merchant ship Commerce and its crew has always loomed large in the true adventure canon. Now, author Dean King has combined the two firsthand accounts of the Commerce sailors' horrific plight in a book that's currently thrusting a scabbard under my imagination's bone-dry throat. Skeletons on the Zahara tells the story of Captain James Riley and his men, who after wandering in delirium in a hostile land, are dragged 800 miles across the unforgiving Sahara desert by a seemingly sadistic group of natives they barely consider to even be human. I'm only a hundred pages in, but already I'm enthralled in this true life tale of astonishing misfortune, unthinkable deprivation and ultimately, the unlikeliest of survivals.

But then again, I've always been a sucker for expeditions gone awry. From deep sea divers entangling themselves in watery tombs, to parched Europeans dying on ice floes adrift, I'm always up for a chronicle of distress. Besides, all that hunger, doom and torment almost makes pulling a torturous morning shift not seem so bad. Almost.


PotatoStew said...

Ever read any John Krakauer?

Lenslinger said...

LOVE Krakauer! Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven...all treasured works in my collection.

Lensmith said...

You sound like you might enjoy books by a fellow named Wilbur Smith.

He's one of my favorites and tells stories, fictional but accurate in detail, about exploration and adventure in Africa and during the time of the Pharohs.

I'm a big fan of his and have to buy any book written by him. They tend to be long. Perfect for waiting in airports or sitting around to do sat shots.

Good to see you got past that minor writers block my friend!

Lenslinger said...

Thanks, John - I'll check into Wilbur Smith. Maybe I'll start a Lenslinger Book Club. Maybe not.

ash said...

Lenslinger, if you haven't already, you really must read "Undaunted Courage," Stephen Ambrose's account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Thanks for the top on Zahara.

Lenslinger said...

Ash, as a matter of fact I HAVE read 'Undaunted Courage' (spurred on by an college professor uncle is something of a renowned expert on Thomas Jefferson).

Here's another one: 'Down the Great Unknown', the story of the initial exploration of the Colorado Rover by a one armed John Wesley Powell...good sheet!