Thursday, 18 April 2013

DARK WATERS by Jason Lewis
Part one of The Expedition trilogy

In the summer of 1994 two unemployed twentysomethings set out to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe using only human power. It would involve crossing the Atlantic and Pacific and oceans as well as five continents, a trip they believed would take three years.

Thirteen years and 46,505 miles later, one of them, Jason Lewis, returned. This is his story.

From the outset these were not two clean livin' professional adventurers plastered with corporate sponsor logos, far from it, they were two young guys setting out on the adventure of a lifetime with almost no relevant experience. In fact during the early stages of volume one its touch and go whether they are actually going to be sober enough for long enough to get the journey underway at all.

But as the departure date draws near and the full enormity of the task becomes apparent we realise that the hard drinking and partying are an essential part of their build up because this is an adventure they will be lucky to survive.

With books about a journey, the purpose of which is the journey, there exists the possibility of becoming bogged down in numerous brief descriptions of a great many places. But not with this book. While Lewis keeps us up to speed with where we are the main thrust is the human elements, namely the people he meets along the way and his companion Steve Smith with whom he enjoys an increasingly difficult, but mutually dependant relationship.

The centre piece of volume one is their perilous Atlantic crossing during which we are treated both to the almost unbearable claustrophopia of their tiny craft and vast emptiness of the ocean.
Lewis has a powerful descriptive ability, particularly where nature is concerned, and reveals the sea in all its moods. We also get to share, in vivid detail, his peaceful contemplation of the stars and the full blown fury of an Atlantic storm.

This is a genuine tale of an adventure. It doesn't start with the cliche of a drunken bet and and it wasn't undertaken for the purpose of nailing a book deal. And whilst the whole undertaking appears very ramshackle at times there is no novelty factor, no hitchhiking with a fridge, no search for people called Dave Gorman and no tedious false modesty.

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