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8 Men and a Duck


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About the Author

Nick Thorpe is an award-winning writer and journalist. A contributor to The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, Scotsman, and BBC Radio 4, among others, he has covered stories ranging from Russian presidential elections to the coca wars of Bolivia, for which he was shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.


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.

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.

"Everybody aboard has a good time. So will you."
"Exquisite...If you enjoy chuckling during your armchair travels, my advice: Rush and Reed."
"The narrative is witty, sad, and as brave and daft as those who sail...In Thorpe's hands, a travelogue becomes a comedy of errors, a farce, a Latinate epic, and a picaresque tale."

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