“An engrossing and moving story of high endeavour and frustrated hope. . . . Get hold of this book and read it.” Barry Unsworth, Sunday Telegraph
978-0-8021-3794-4 • $15.00 • Paperback • Apr. 2001
Military History (Naval)
"Surely this spring's most entertaining
popular history . . . Here is all the adventure you could want, stirringly and
Barrow's Boys is a spellbinding
account of perilous journeys to uncharted areas under the most challenging conditions.
Re-creating the successes and harrowing failures of the original extreme adventurers,
Fergus Fleming captures the incredibly brave, and often downright insane, passion
for exploration that led a band of men into situations that would humble even
the bravest adventurers today.
men served under John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty, who, after
the Napoleonic wars, launched the most ambitious program of exploration the
world has ever seen. For the next thirty years, his handpicked teams of elite
naval officers scoured the globe on a mission to fill the blanks that littered
the atlases of the day.
the first disastrous trip down the Congo, in search of the Niger River, Barrow
maintained his resolve in the face of continuous catastrophes. His explorers
often died of sickness or at the hands of unfriendly natives, and they struggled
under minuscule budgets that forced them to resort to pulling enormous ships
across floating ice fields; to eating mice, raw meat, or their own shoes; and
even to horrifying acts of cannibalism.
many of the journeys failed entirely, Barrow and his men ultimately opened Africa
to the world, discovered Antarctica, and pried apart the mandibles of the Arctic.
Many of the missions have gone down among the greatest in history, yet they
have never before been collected into one volume that captures the full sweep
of Barrow's program. Beyond their own renowned discoveries, Barrow's officers
inspired scores of men, from Livingstone to Shackleton, to continue the incredible
quest for knowledge well into the twentieth century. Never again would such
a disparate and entertaining band of explorers stalk the world.
few of John Barrow's expeditions:
1816: Barrow's first mission sends a crew up the Congo in search
of the mouth of the Niger River. Within 200 miles yellow fever wipes out most
of the crew; when the survivors turn around their African guides flee into the
bush, stealing most of their supplies. None of the officers survive and only
a few crewmembers limp back to England. The mission is a total failure, setting
an unfortunate precedent for the missions to follow.
1819-1822: The legendary John Franklin takes his first overland mission
to map Canada's northern coastline. They run out of food and are driven to eating
lichen from rocks, mice, and even their shoes, which are roasted or boiled before
being devoured. Some of the men resort to cannibalism.
Gordon Laing, the indomitable African explorer and dreadful
poet, crosses the Sahara in search of Timbuctoo, rumored to be a wondrous city
of learning and commerce. Attacked by Tuareg tribesmen, he covers 400 miles
strapped to the back of a camel with numerous saber cuts, a fractured jawbone,
a musket ball in the hip, three broken fingers, and a slashed wrist. He eventually
finds Timbuctoo, which turns out to be nothing more than a squalid huddle of
mud houses. Laing is murdered by Tuaregs on his way back and his body is never
1830: Richard and John Lander take up the intrepid task of following
the Niger to its mouth. Along the way they are forced to bribe tribal leaders
to let them continue, abducted by pirates and delivered into slavery, bought
by a drunken chief who sets them free to sail away with a foul-mouthed British
captain who desperately needs healthy crewmembers. They return to England in
1831, having discovered the mouth of the Niger, only to receive the cold shoulder
from Barrow, who had long argued that the Niger ended elsewhere and was displeased
to have his beliefs disproven.
for Barrow's Boys:
rollicking narrative about the real thing: nineteenth-century British seafaring
exploits . . . A riveting yarn."Grace Lichtenstein, The
Washington Post Book World
delivers with firsthand accounts from diaries, meticulously crafted details,
and devastatingly dry wit."Ben Arnoldy, The
Christian Science Monitor
series of vivid portraits and thrilling tales . . . The book makes wonderful
reading."Kildare Dobbs, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)