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The China Voyage: Across The Pacific By Bamboo Raft Hardcover – August 27, 1995
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From Library Journal
Severin has made a career of re-creating voyages and journeys of the famous and legendary and writing chronicles of his adventures (In Search of Genghis Khan, LJ 4/1/92). Here Severin becomes interested in the possibility of travel and cultural exchange across the Pacific prior to the European discovery of America. He recounts arguments of cultural specialists and puts forth the theory that bamboo rafts were the most likely craft used by Asian navigators of the time. The bulk of the book recounts the building of a raft in Vietnam, the gathering of a crew, and the attempt to reach California via the Kuroshio and the North Pacific currents. There is some good incidental information about Vietnam and the character of Severin's multinational crew. But there is mind-numbing detail of bad meals and dangerous weather situations, as well as the slow deterioration of the raft. Thorough, accurate, and intelligent, this work is not as exciting as the general public might desire.?William R. Smith, Johns Hopkins Univ. Lib., Baltimore
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Severin has undertaken previous adventures inspired by historical journeys of significance. His latest expedition was motivated in part by the findings of experts who believed it possible that a Chinese explorer crossed from Asia to America perhaps 2,000 years ago on a bamboo raft. In what Severin considered to be an archeological experiment, a replica raft was built in Vietnam and christened Hsu Fu, after the revered mariner. Severin and his crew of four then set sail from Hong Kong to Tokyo before embarking on a crossing of the North Pacific. This rousing account of the journey is vividly detailed, never dreary. Nearly 1,000 miles off the Mendocino coast, these persistent sailors finally had to abandon the ancient seafaring craft that up to that point had served them so well. Alice Joyce
Top customer reviews
This unique sailing adventure was an experience so real, personal and vivid. However, they had to abandon their endeavor about 1,000 miles off the Mendocino coast upon the failure of the ancient style seafaring craft. They were picked up by the Container ship California Galaxy back to Tokyo. It was a sharp contrast to the cold-heart treatment at Itado Harbor to avoid a typhoon. Serverin said: never, never, in any place had I encountered seamen who were not prepared to help out another ship in danger (p.150).
His last chapter sentence: or perhaps (Hsu Fu) to be carried by the current and washed up one day on the American shore. Indeed, this wish and blessing prove that the Pacific current can carry anything from Asia to America, whether they are ghost ship or a large piece of concrete pier from the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.
This book is uniquely interesting, exciting and adventurous.
I sm into sailing so these books are highly interesting to me since I have never sailed on a junk or any of the other types of boats that he writes about.
I first read about this trip in a one-page National Geographic article, which didn't do the trip nor Tim Severin and his crew justice.
A long-time fan of Mr.Severin, I know what to expect from his books; very intense, often repetitious eulogies on the strengths and weaknesses of the craft; the pros & cons of his theories and the methods used to explore the possibilities opened up by these theories.
This book is no exception, refusing to take any modern assistance (except mandatory safety equipment), insisting on traditional materials and building techniques, he constructs a raft which has never been seen outside Vietnam for a century, in order to test his theory that Asian culture could have migrated via the Pacific (either by accident or design) to the Americas.
The trip is punctuated by storms, any one of which would destroy your average 60foot yacht, but Hsu Fu calmly lets the mightiest waves run right through her, barely disturbing the crew at their supper.
A bonus is that the raft needs no helmsman, once set on a tack she steers herself, her attendant shoals of fish ensure continuous supplies of fresh food, the only problem is after 5 months at sea, she's falling apart at the seams.
Having seen the original Sindbad dhow (parked on a roundabout in Muscat, Oman), I can attest to the workmanship and attention to detail that goes into each one of Mr.Severin's boats, so it must have been heart-breaking for him to see his journey cut short by the break-up of the raft, due to no fault of his own, and so near to the final goal.
I'd love to see the videos that they took on the voyage - the narrative gives you a real feeling of being at one with the sea, but I'd like to compare the picture in my head with the real thing.
Thoroughly recommended reading; I'm just about to start on 'The Spice Islands Voyage - In Search of Wallace', which should combine two of my favourite subjects:- Exploration and Evolution ... more on that later.