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FDL Book Salon Preview: Stop Drifting, Start Rowing, by Roz Savage

Roz Savage in her ocean rowboat, about 4 weeks after setting out from the Canary Islands on the Atlantic Rowing Race 2005.

I.  When I was a teenager, I read Frank Worsley’s Shackleton’s Boat Journey, about British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s desperate move in an open boat, to rescue his stranded crew from the Antarctic ice, in April and May, 1916.  At the time, I didn’t know much about the ocean, sailing or extreme condition adventures.

By my mid-twenties, though, I was fishing commercially year-round in Alaskan coastal waters, having multitudes of such hazards under my belt, including being pulled overboard and 60 feet underwater by a 8-foot-by-8-foot crab pot.  Between fishing trips, my reading list included Joshua Slocum’s seminal 1900 memoir, Sailing Around Alone Around the World, every book I could find on Captain Cook’s voyages, Herman Melville’s White-Jacket, and other volumes on the extremes the sea can fetch into the laps of anyone who dares to seek the edge.

I avidly devoured Tristan Jones‘ accounts of solo ocean sailing voyages as they were published, between 1977 and 1991, beginning with The Incredible Voyage, in which Jones sailed half the world’s oceans, as he sought to sail the lowest (the Dead Sea) and highest (Lake Titicaca) bodies of sailboat-navigable water on this planet.

These books were all by men, about themselves, or other men.  But I knew from my Alaskan experiences than many women loved the sea and testing their limits there as much as I did, or more.  Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many historical books about women braving the extreme hazards of solo trekking, sailing, climbing and exploring.  This has changed markedly since the 1970s, and the trend is accelerating in our new century.  Here is a book list of adventure books featuring women who dared challenge not just the odds, but the conventions of their times.

This new century has brought not only more women adventurers to the fore.  It has brought them and their male counterparts the opportunity of keeping us up-to-date on their progress (or not!) via blogs, vlogs, social media and other almost instant communication.  My first close encounter with this approach to extreme trekking was in late 2007, when I discovered Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman, as they walked, pac-rafted and skied from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands,  blogging as they progressed.  Additionally, some of these new wave adventurers were using their journeys to heighten awareness of environmental issues. [cont’d.]

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Philip Munger

Philip Munger

musician, composer, educator, environmental and community planning activist