Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book Review: Adrift

Book Review: Adrift: Seventy Six Days Lost At Sea by Steven Callahan

"Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." So said Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 1794 poetry classic Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I could not help but think of these words repeatedly while reading Adrift. Adrift is the story of Steven Callahan's solo survival epic; a long distance sailing race which ends abruptly with the sinking of his boat seven days out. Woken brutally from his sleep, Callahan begins a nightmare that seems to always go from bad to worse. Naked in a stormy night, he barely escapes with only a few supplies as he manages to get into an emergency raft inflated before his boat goes down. After surviving the first night what follows is setback after setback as the story honestly charts his descent into a situation that few could conceive of (and even fewer could survive). The book describes how he solves, survives, or perseveres through each of his many problems - some of it by pure luck and some by his ingenuity. Sharks, no food, no water, a leaking raft, depression, etc - somehow he overcomes them all. Imagine being in crisis for for 76 days straight!

What I really enjoyed about the story is the psychological/spiritual journey that Callahan goes on. You get to hear about his history and addiction to the sea. Also he tells how many of his preconceptions are challenged and/or blown out of the water by the predicament he finds himself in. I won't spoil it, but his interaction with the sea world around him is fully terrifying, inspiring, and downright miraculous. It's almost impossible not to feel that Someone is helping him in very specific ways. The author includes sketches he made of himself along his journey which helps you to connect with him and his situation.

I'm convinced that it takes a very special kind of person to survive what he did. I know certainly that I would not have been able to do it and that is humbling. Callahan had a unique blend of survival knowledge and skill, as well as a positive spirit and an ability to be alone that certainly made the difference between his life and death. This book is inspiring as it shows what a human is capable of persevering. Think your situation is bad right now? Read this book, you'll feel better! I read a lot of outdoor books, but this one is definitely right up there as a classic that I will read again and again. If you are not an outdoors person you may find the first chapter or two difficult to get through as it describes a lot about his boat (which eventually sinks anyway) but after that it is highly engaging for any reader. I rate it 4.6 ninja stars out of 5.


Anonymous said...

That book sounds awesome! I definately want to read it. One of my favorite books is also about the sea. It's called "Dove" by Robin Lee Graham, who sails solo around the world at the tender age of 16. Yikes, that's like my sister's age!

Mark said...

Hey Eric, you would love this book. Let me know if you'd like to borrow it (although you'll have to give me a book in return - only fair right?)!