> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 4 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784758578
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

Erebus: The Story of a Ship




Michael Palin brings to life one of the greatest adventures of all time

Now available to preorder: Michael Palin's North Korea Journal
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, HMS Erebus undertook two of the most ambitious naval expeditions of all time.

On the first, she ventured further south than any human had ever been. On the second, she vanished with her 129-strong crew in the wastes of the Canadian Arctic.

Her fate remained a mystery for over 160 years.

Then, in 2014, she was found.

This is her story.
_______________
BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK

‘Beyond terrific . . . I didn’t want it to end.’ Bill Bryson

‘Illuminated by flashes of gentle wit . . . It’s a fascinating story that [Palin] brings full-bloodedly to life.’ Guardian
‘This is an incredible book . . . The Erebus story is the Arctic epic we’ve all been waiting for.’ Nicholas Crane

‘Thoroughly absorbs the reader. . . Carefully researched and well-crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life.’ Sunday Times
‘A great story . . . Told in a very relaxed and sometimes – as you might expect – very funny Palin style.’ David Baddiel, Daily Mail

‘Magisterial . . . Brings energy, wit and humanity to a story that has never ceased to tantalise people since the 1840s.’ The Times

  • Pub date: 4 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784758578
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

About the Author

Michael Palin

Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous TV programmes and films, from Monty Python and Ripping Yarns to The Missionary and The Death of Stalin. He has also made several much-acclaimed travel documentaries, his journeys taking him to the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe and Brazil. His books include accounts of his journeys, novels (Hemingway’s Chair and The Truth) and several volumes of diaries. From 2009 to 2012 he was president of the Royal Geographical Society, and in 2013 he was made a BAFTA fellow. He lives in London.

Also by Michael Palin

See all

Praise for Erebus: The Story of a Ship

“Beyond terrific. I didn’t want it to end.”

Bill Bryson

“Thoroughly absorbs the reader. . . Carefully researched and well-crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life.”

Sunday Times

“[Palin’s] narrative is driven by a deep sympathy for explorers and adventurers, while also being illuminated by flashes of gentle wit . . . It’s a fascinating story that he brings full-bloodedly to life, stripping away the barnacles of the past to reveal the hidden history of a ship.”

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Guardian

“With this irresistible and often harrowing account, Michael Palin makes a convincing case that one heroic little ship embodied the golden ago of polar exploration better than any other: HMS Erebus.”

John Geiger, co-author of Frozen in Time

“[Written] with a wry enthusiasm, bolstered by his own experiences as an eminent explorer and film-maker . . . His moving account of the discovery of abandoned items, taken on board as comforts of home by the officers – silver cutlery with their initials indented, scattered on a frozen shore – affected me the most.”

Colin Greenwood, Radiohead bassist, Spectator

“Everybody’s talking about it . . . A brilliant book.”

Chris Evans, BBC Radio 2

“I absolutely loved it: I had to read it at one sitting . . . Fascinating.”

Lorraine Kelly, ITV Lorraine

“At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience. He turns up obscure facts, reanimates essential moments, and never shies away from taking controversial positions. This beautifully produced volume – colour plates, outstanding maps – is a landmark achievement.”

Ken McGoogan, author of Fatal Passage

“Magisterial . . . A natural storyteller, [Palin] captures beautifully the sense of awe experienced by Ross and his men as they encountered the wonders and terrors of Antarctica . . . He brings energy, wit and humanity to a story that has never ceased to tantalise people since the 1840s.”

The Times

“This is an incredible book. I couldn’t put it down. The Erebus story is the Arctic epic we’ve all been waiting for.”

Nicholas Crane

“A timely account of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find a way through the Northwest Passage . . . [Palin] does an admirable job of recounting the life of this doughty ship, from construction at Pembroke dockyard in 1826 to her last days stuck fast in the ice . . . vivid, evocative stuff . . . pulls together very effectively much of the work that’s been done to establish the truth about Franklin’s fate.”

Erica Wagner, Financial Times

“What a book this is! . . . [Palin] brings not just a historian’s and writer’s skills to it, but those of a traveller.”

Dan Snow, Dan’s History Hit

“Extraordinary . . . Thoroughly sifts through the many varied and often contradictory theories about what happened to the 129 men aboard Franklin’s two ships.”

Maclean’s

“Compelling . . . HMS Erebus embarked on two of the most dramatic Polar expeditions in history . . . Michael’s historical non fiction debut charts both journeys and brings back to life all those who sailed on her.”

Saga

“I’ve been mesmerised . . . Palin’s book charts the 1845 voyage of Sir John Franklin, who sought the Northwest Passage with HMS Terror and HMS Erebus.”

Scottish Daily Mail

“[Palin] successfully reanimates the corpse, bringing Erebus back from the depths of time so her funnels once more blast smoke as she forges through new and wondrous seas.”

Sunday Express

“Combines a fascinating episode of naval history with [Palin’s] flair for storytelling.”

Radio Times

“Palin’s experiences, including a voyage on a Russian ship to the channel where the wreck of Erebus was discovered, give a sense of immediacy and proportion to his narrative . . . Michael Palin has done full justice to [John Franklin] and all these remarkable men. This truly is a marvellous book.”

Allan Massie, Scotsman

“This lively account reveals much about both exploration and the Royal Navy in the 19th century . . . Palin is a diligent researcher who has trawled the primary sources and, largely in the course of filming his television series Pole to Pole, has visited many of the key sites here.”

Sara Wheeler, Observer

“Nicholas Crane, current president of the Royal Geographical Society, has described Palin, one of his predecessors, as “the world’s most appealing practitioner of geographical curiosity”, and it’s that curiosity which drives his stirring new book . . . His account is written in crisp, unshowy prose.”

Four star review, Daily Telegraph

“A great story . . . Told in a very relaxed and sometimes – as you might expect – very funny Palin style.”

David Baddiel, Daily Mail

“Palin has seized [the story] with relish: the distinctive dry humour familiar to his television audiences finds plenty of opportunities to emerge, and his easy assurance as a writer . . . keeps the pace sprightly.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Fascinating. Exciting. Authoritative.”

All About History

“A delightfully granular description of ship-board life, all told in a brisk, breezy style . . . A very readable and fascinating tale from the early years of polar exploration.”

Book of the Month, Geographical

“A great read . . . You feel you’re sitting in the pub with Michael Palin himself as he regales you with tales of the mighty seas.”

The People’s Friend

“The nicest Python with yet another deeply fascinating project”

Northern Soul

“Everyone’s favourite Python tells the story of Erebus in his cheery prose style”

Daily Mirror


Discover More

Video
Watch Michael Palin discuss his new book, Erebus.

Related titles