Friday, April 28, 2006

Guest Author - JOHN HARRISON Finds inspiration Where the Earth Ends

John Harrison's latest book, Where the Earth Ends is about South America and Antarctica.
In 2002, he walked 700 miles through the Andes for his next book, A Walk to the Sun, about the high sierra.
John was the first outsider some of those people had ever met.

‘My father’s family were seafarers, but he entered the airforce when WWII broke out.
After the war, he just wanted a nice safe desk job. Even our holidays were timorous affairs.
But I guess my wanderlust broke out, albeit a little late in life, when I had the chance to visit Kenya in my thirties. I don’t think I’ve had a European holiday since, apart from exploring the British Isles more fully.
There’s nothing like foreign travel to make you realise what you don’t know about your own land.
I always loved maps and geography, encouraged by Dad, who’d been a navigator.
My interest in travel writing also came late, after many years as a fiction writer.
It was travel and memoirs, rather than travel books, which inspired it. I wanted to try to encapsulate something of the whole experience of another place. I think it combines many of my interests. Over and above telling a story, I can play around and weave in fragments of history and myth, a love of landscapes and wildlife, and the layers of culture and literature that give human occupation depth and meaning.
I aim to provide a sense of spirit of place.
‘Where the Earth Ends’ was the result of reading a book called 'Uttermost Part of the Earth' by Lucas Bridges, the son of a missionary who ministered to the Natives of Tierra del Fuego.
Young Bridges was brought up among Indians still living a Stone Age life.
I went there. I had to write about it.
Out of all the things I’ve done, the thrill of getting my first book published matches any of them. When it was made a Sunday Times book of the week, I couldn’t quite believe it! It took a long time to find my m├ętier, but it’s a lovely job.’
About John
Travel writer and environmentalist, JOHN HARRISON, is a native of Liverpool. For twenty years, he worked in planning and environmental matters. His short stories have been broadcast on the BBC and collected in A Short Primer in Vice. His last book, Where the Earth Ends, about South America and Antarctica, was a Sunday Times Book of the Week, and has been translated into German. It’s now out in paperback. Copies are available from Parthian Press
or if you’d like a personalised signed copy from the author, via his website
He is now writing and lecturing full-time, including working as a Field Education Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He has travelled to 42 countries on 6 continents, and has made radio programmes for the BBC on Antarctica and Easter Island.
John's particular interests are the links between real voyages and famous fiction, the remote cultures of southern South America, and the impact of exploration and conquest.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of the Society of Authors, a Fellow of the Welsh Academy, a past Chair of the Welsh Union of Writers, and was for many years a Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Antarctica - A blue world of ice and sky

Sailing South to the midnight sun
Since posting the blog about the yacht in Antarctica (pictured below) I have emailed various ultimate adventure groups in an effort to find the name of the vessel.
In the process I have discovered that there are several sailing ships - yachts, schooners even square riggers which visit the Antarctic Peninsula during the southern summer months.
Oh, to sail on a tall ship as the explorers of old did!!
I'd love to do it.
Photo of glacier ice - 'from the inside looking out' - courtesy Robert Dunn

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Deception Island, Antarctica

Safe Harbour in Volcano at the end-of-the-world
The quality of this picture is poor but the courage and audacity of the yacht’s crew for me commands the greatest respect.
I took this photo just over a year ago in Deception Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. (Yes, the word in is correct – I’ll explain later!)
Today I look at the picture and wonder who the brave sailors were who ventured there.
To have rounded the Horn is an awesome adventure; to have sailed across Drake Passage a challenge few would consider; to have contended with the tumultuous seas, icy winds and snow on a small yacht (albeit summer in Antarctica) is near unbelievable.
Having sailed to Antarctica on a cruise ship, I wasn’t able to relate to the experiences of sailing to those lethal latitudes.
The nearest I came was standing on deck for hours armed with a camera – my hands almost dropping off with cold.
But that alone allowed me to conjure in my mind an idea of what the early sailors would have endured on their voyages of discovery.
Deception Island is well named. It is not an island but a huge caldera of a (currently active) volcano. The land which surrounds it (as seen in the photo) sits out of the sea like the rim of a huge teacup. But unlike the white china appearance of the other Antarctic Islands the inside walls of this crater contrast starkly –they are thick with black volcanic ash.
The only entrance to the island is through a narrow crack in the rim but for those who find that entrance, the island's water is welcoming - calm in comparison to the unpredictably moody sea's outside, littered with treacherous icebergs; even warm in parts, where the volcanic activity below heats the water sending clouds of steam rising like smoke on the water.
Despite the inhospitable nature of this end-of-the-world location, in the summer months scientists live and work near the water's edge in the Antarctic Research Stations.
From the ship I saw two, each comprising of a handful of huts which priovide a temporary home in this desolate, virtually inescapable place - one of the most isolated places on earth.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, to see a yacht, moored as if it was in a fashionable harbour in some cold but peaceful bay or river.
In this case, however, the buildings in the background are not a yacht club, but the long abandoned remains from a previous expeditionary/scientific/whaling station.
(Perhaps there is an expert who can put me right here.)
I would love to know who the intrepid crew of the yacht were who had taken their lives in their hands, braved the elements and done what many seamen today and in the past would never contemplate doing.
I envy your courage!
Photo M. Muir – Jan 2005 Deception Island, Antarctica

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

GUEST AUTHOR - Broos Campbell - captured by the sea's magic

Broos Campbell is the author of the Matty Graves sea adventure series. The first book, NO QUARTER, was issued in hardcover by McBooks Press of Ithaca, New York, in April 2006
When I was 40, I ran away to sea.
I’d grown up reading the Hornblower books and I wanted to see for myself what square-rig sailing was like.
And I didn’t like it.
I hate being cold and wet, which sailors are most of the time. And I hate making a fool of myself, which there’s plenty of opportunity for in a tall ship.
But it was only a two-week stint, anyway, in the brig Lady Washington out of Grays Harbor in Washington state.
We’d motor out of the harbor and then the captain would cut the engine.
There would be a terrible lull, with the waves lapping at the hull and the masts swaying in the swell.
Then the captain would call, “All idle hands, lay aloft!”
There’s no “after you, mate” in a square-rigger.
If you’re next to the windward shrouds when the call comes, up you go.
It’s that or go ashore. No one trusts you, otherwise.
We were coming into harbor one evening after I’d been aboard about a week.
We’d furled everything and had nothing more to do till we reached the dock but loaf around.
I was sitting on the fore topmast yard talking to an old hand.
She looked around at the forest stretching off into the distance and the setting sun lighting up the clouds with God rays, and said, “Don’t you just love it?”
I said no, I hated it.
She said she’d hated it too for the first week, but then suddenly it had become magical.
I didn’t believe her.
I was too ashamed of my misery to find my way out of it.
But the next evening there I was again, in the same place, dangling my feet and looking around at the view - and it was magical.
I suddenly realized I was exactly where I belonged and I had no desire to be anywhere else in the world.
It’s hard to come by that sort of serenity.
You won’t find it in a bottle, and you won’t find it in someone’s arms.
You can only find it by being absolutely worthy of the trust that others place in you.
That’s the only place I’ve ever found it, anyway.

To find out more about the Matty Graves series, try e-mailing Broos. He can be reached through his admittedly rudimentary Web site at
Broos' photo by Walter Mladina

Marg's update - Bitten by the bug

At long last the muse has returned and I am back to solid writing!
Not sure of the title of the next book (possibly The Black Thread) but it's set in Yorkshire (where else?) in the late 1800s.
By Chapter 4 the protagonist is on the run.
Can the Leeds/Liverpool canal offer a means of escape?

After reading of my interests, Andrew Denny, master of, Granny Buttons, a narrow boat, asked if there would be a goat in the next book. He told me he once saw a goat on a barge on one of the English canals. I wish I'd seen that.
Maybe I can sneak one in somewhere....
PS - Thanks to Andrew for the information I have gleaned from his site and the canal links it has taken me to.
Definitely worth a visit:

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Narrow Boat - sliding into the past

The days of the old working narrow boats are gone and today most canal barges are used as pleasure craft.
The history of the canals however is intruiging.
I'm currently reading the book, Narrow Boat, by LTC Rolt which was first published in 1944.
It's a beautifully written testament to the old boats and reading it transported me back to the days when the canals were still thriving, though at the time of writing, the signs of them being neglected and falling into disuse were definitely showing.
I remember crossing the Leeds/Liverpool everytime I went into to Leeds when I was a girl.
The canal looked black and dismal and its littered banks were an area to be avoided.
It is wonderful that many of the canals throughout Britain have been cleaned up and are in use again, albeit for holidaymakers.
Back to Mr Rolt's book:
Reading about the narrow boats with their polished brasswork and painted decorations of flowers and castles, about the boatmen and women and their traditional dress, about the pretty lock cottages and Inns and the operation of the staircase locks, I find everthing connected with the narrow boat inspiring.
So much so, my next story incorporates the Leeds and Liverpool canal of the 1890s in its pages.
At the moment I haven't got a working title but am considering - 'The Black Thread'.
When I visit Leeds this year, I will make a point of re-visiting the canal and learning first hand how the lock paddles operate - and I must get some photos.

Photo curtesy Andy Roberts Inland Waterways -

Books - 'Sea Dust' - SOLD OUT ALREADY

Great news this week - just heard that my novel, 'Sea Dust' has sold out of its first print run.
Hale Books, the publisher has only 2 hardback copies left in stock.
With my second novel - 'The Twisting Vine' - due in August, I am hoping it will be as well received.

This is the artist's cover rough for 'The Twisting Vine'.
I feel that the girl has a hard face and have asked that it can be softened.
It is not a baby she is holding, but a French Bru Doll.
The doll has an unobtrusive presence throughout the story and I had written this novel under the title, 'Through Glass Eyes', however the publisher did not like it, hence the change.
Cover rough for The Twisting Vine by unnamed artist - courtesy of Robert Hale Books, London