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Sailors in the Holy Land: The 1848 American Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Search for Sodom and Gomorrah Hardcover – May 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


A fascinating reconstruction...well researched and well written, this book is a good read: informative and just plain fun. -- Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord April 2005

History in the manner of Moby Dick, [Jampoler] several branches of history, naval, regional, biblical and literary..refreshingly different and thought-provoking. -- International Journal of Naval History

Rambles charmingly about …life in the [Ottoman] Levant, adventures of other travelers, observations about the places today. An enjoyable book. -- The Nymas Review No 34, Spring 2005

This unusual adventure will be enjoyed by students of biblical history [and]those interested in the U.S. Navy in mid-19th century. -- Anchor Watch July-September 2006

About the Author

Andrew Jampoler is a retired naval aviator and former commanding officer of Patrol Squadron 19 and of Naval Air Station Moffett Field. Since retirement from the Navy, he has worked in the aerospace industry and has written for Proceedings magazine and for Naval Institute Press.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; First Printing edition (May 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591144132
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591144137
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,857,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Jampoler lives in the Lost Corner of Loudoun County, Virginia, with his wife, Susan, a professional geographer, and their two golden retrievers. They have married children in Pennsylvania and Iowa. He is an alumnus of Columbia College and the School of International and Public Affairs, both of Columbia University, in New York City, and of the U.S. State Department Foreign Service Institute's School of Language Study. During more than twenty years on active duty with the U.S. Navy Jampoler commanded a land-based maritime patrol aircraft squadron and a naval air station. Later he was a senior sales and marketing executive in the international aerospace industry.

Jampoler has been writing full time for a dozen years. Most recently, the Naval Institute Press published his "Horrible Shipwreck!," a book about the wreck of His Majesty's Transport Amphitrite, a bark driven aground in a furious storm September 1833 a half mile off Boulogne-sur-mer, France. Amphitrite was transporting female convicts from Woolwich, England to Botany Bay, New South Wales. One hundred eight women, twelve children, and thirteen of the crew--all but three aboard--drowned when her captain refused assistance from shore, fearing the possibility that some of the prisoners would escape and that he would be held responsible. "I never saw so many fine and beautiful bodies," wrote a mournful observer walking the beach the next day, "Some of the women were almost perfectly made." Fifteen years ago the wreck was identified as the subject of English painter J. M. W. Turner's unfinished 1835 masterpiece, "Fire at Sea."

His first book, "Adak: The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586," is the true story of a navy patrol aircraft ditching in the North Pacific Ocean in October 1978. A review in May 2003 in the Wall Street Journal described the book as "an adventure story to rival the best you've ever read." "Adak" later won Jampoler recognition as the Press's "author of the year." The crew's story based on this book has been the subject of television specials in Russia and Japan. The book will be available in audio in April 2013.

His next book, "Sailors in the Holy Land: the 1848 American Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Search for Sodom and Gomorrah," is the story of the U.S. Navy's small boat expedition down the River Jordan and across the Dead Sea in mid-19th century. Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the award-winning "Sea of Glory," described the book in 2005 as telling "the fascinating story of one of the most improbable operations ever mounted by the U.S. Navy... a meticulously researched account."

"The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt's Flight from the Gallows," his third book, tells the remarkable story of John Harrison Surratt. Finally captured in Egypt eighteen months after his mother's execution on the same charge, Surratt was last person to go on trial for his role in John Wilkes Booth's plot to assassinate President Lincoln, and the only one to escape conviction.

Two new books will come out in 2013. "Congo," the true and tragic story of the United States and the Congo in the late 19th century, as seen through the life of Lieutenant Emory Taunt, US Navy, will be published in June. Taunt was the first resident American diplomat in Equatorial West Africa. He died on the river in disgrace in 1891. Jampoler's research for this book took him 1,400 miles down the Congo River, from Kisangani to Banana Point, in a small boat in 2011. "Black Rock and Blue Water," the story of the wreck of Royal Mail Ship Rhone in the Caribbean in 1867, will be available as an e-book later in the year.

Jampoler also writes for periodicals. An article of his in "Naval History" magazine was recognized by the publisher as its best piece of writing during 2006. Jampoler has given illustrated presentations about the subjects of his books and articles to audiences at the Library of Congress, the National Archives, in museums and embassies, at book stores, and aboard cruise ships.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jazz It Up Baby on August 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The multi-month expedition undertaken by the U.S. Navy to the Holy Land and led by Lt. William F. Lynch in 1848 rates as one of the most exotic the service has ever undertaken, as written by Daniel Pipes. At a time when the navy consisted of only eleven thousand officers and men and in general stayed on well-worn routes, setting off to the Dead Sea, not for any military purpose but in search of Sodom and Gomorrah, ranks as a folly. But the mission had serious scientific purposes, was professionally executed, and provides to this day important information on the Jordan River and its associated lakes. (This author cited Lynch's report at length in a 1988 article.)

Jampoler clearly took great pleasure in writing this very detailed account of the Lynch expedition, gamboling after topics that are not, strictly speaking, essential to his text (such as the marital infidelities of Lynch's wife while he was at sea or the connection between the city of Sodom and the jailing of Oscar Wilde). He satisfyingly tracks down references, provides historical context, and gives those details necessary to make the nearly yearlong trip come alive. But the author's focus is almost exclusively American, so that the Middle East of the time feels more like a colorful and unchanging backdrop than an alive and dynamic foreground. Any reader who would approach Sailors in the Holy Land from the point of view of learning about Palestine a century and a half back will be disappointed; for such readers, there is no replacing the accounts of the participants, including Lynch's two books and those of other participants, John S. Jenkins and Edward Montague.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
On 31 July 1847, four months after the capture of the port of Veracruz during the Mexican war, an expedition proposed by Lt. William Lynch to circumnavigate the Dead Sea was approved by the Navy. The specific goal of the expedition was to establish the elevation of the Dead Sea. He also intended to collect mineral and other specimens. What he really wanted to do was to find the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Traven in these days was not nearly as easy as it is now. Lynch had a 'metallic' boat which he proposed to travel. But the horses that were to pull the boat were broken to the saddle, not harness. That was just the beginning.

This book tells the story of this expedition, but more than that puts it into place as a story of the time as well. This is a little known episode in the history of the U.S. Navy.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1848, an Arab tribal leader (later de facto ruler of Galilee) asked a U.S. military officer about possible American support for a revolt against the Ottoman Turks. The support never materialized. But this nugget of documented fact, buried in "Sailors in the Holy Land," shows Arab nationalism was simmering long before Lawrence of Arabia. It also shows what a valuable resource this book is.

Jampoler chronicles the first and only U.S. naval expedition to the Dead Sea. Led by Lt. William F. Lynch, the expedition's scientific objectives were to circumnavigate the sea, collect mineral samples and determine its absolute elevation below sea level.

Another goal was to show the flag and boost the image of the young U.S. Navy. Lynch took two boats filled with sailors from the Sea of Galilee, down the twisting 150-mile Jordan River with its 27 sets of "threatening" rapids, to the lifeless Dead Sea itself.

The story is told in delicious detail. We learn how, back home, Lynch's marriage is disintegrating while he adventures in Palestine. We see how parallel, successive expeditions, undertaken some years before by an Irish theology student and by a British royal engineer, ended in their tragic deaths.

On arriving at the Dead Sea, Lynch, though a firm teetotaler, describes its water as the smoldering color of "diluted absinthe." Chemical studies of his samples found Dead Sea water to be only two-thirds liquid, with the rest diluted salts and other solids.

Lynch was the first to accurately determine the Dead Sea's water level - some 1,300 feet below sea level at that time. As for Sodom and Gomorrah, well, the lieutenant searched for the legendary cities. Let's just say that to the present day, the locations of the two famed cities of sin have never been absolutely determined.

[A version of this review appeared in Saudi Aramco World, Sep/Oct 2005.]
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