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Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of…

Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival (2004)

by Dean King

Other authors: Fearn Cutler de Vicq (Designer), G. W. Ward (Maps)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6811614,027 (4.03)36
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    The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks (bookwoman247)
    bookwoman247: These are similar historical tales of Americans taken as slaves in Africa during the 19th Century and of survival.

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bookshelves: winter-20132014, african-continent, adventure, biography, desert-regions, fraudio, history, nonfiction, published-2004, seven-seas, tbr-busting-2014, travel, napoleonic, afr-mali, afr-morocco, arabian, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, muslim, ouch, plague-disease, religion, slaves, swashbuckler
Read from August 31, 2013 to January 07, 2014

photo nonfiction_zps50e8dfae.jpg photo redboyhydra_zpsfe9a9108.gif

BLURB: This shipwreck-and-survival saga occurred in 1815 in the wind-tortured territory of the modern Western Sahara and was promptly written down by American brigantine captain James Riley. So popular it appeared in six different editions, Riley's account is revived here with the benefit of author King's journey to retrace, in part, the 800-mile desert trek of Riley and his shipwrecked crew.

Unabridged and read by Michael Pritchard

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Timbuktu, Mali

Napoleon's Milan Decree: issued on December 17, 1807 by Napoleon I of France to enforce the Berlin Decree of 1806 which had initiated the Continental System. This system was the basis for his plan to defeat the British by waging economic warfare. The Milan Decree stated that no European country was to trade with the United Kingdom.

The decree authorized French warships and privateers to capture neutral ships sailing from any British port or from any country that was occupied by British forces. It also declared that any ships that submitted to search by the Royal Navy on the high seas were to be considered lawful prizes if captured by the French. (wiki sourced)

Tuareg Peoples

Originally published in 1817 "Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce" by the "Late Master and Supercargo" James Riley, it was republished as Sufferings in Africa: The Incredible True Story of a Shipwreck, Enslavement, and Survival on the Sahara

King does Riley with the best part of a century between the two journeys. Right off bat one can say that King has the better bargain:

• no shipwreck trauma
• no camel urine drinking
• no slavery
• no scimitars ( )
  mimal | Jan 7, 2014 |
Entertaining introduction to a classic true adventure story. Although this is a modern retelling King often lapses into an early 19th bombastic style that makes it obvious he is paraphrasing from source material, it can feel stilted as a result. Further the remove of a journalist telling us what happened 200 years, versus the first-person memoir by Riley soon after the events - which is still fairly readable - makes me want to read the original. Although the inhuman "sufferings" of the crew are what most remark on, I was most drawn by the lifestyle of the desert natives since it seemed unchanged for 5000 years or more, and provides a glimpse into the age-old fight of settled vs nomadic peoples. Given how harsh nomadic life is I wondered why anyone practice it, and the answer became clear: "civilization" could be even more deadly, the desert was a refuge from cruel and capricious rulers and endless tribal feuds that could wipe out entire settlements. ( )
  Stbalbach | Aug 31, 2013 |
an excellent survival story; lets you feel what he is going thru while at the same time astounding you with what the human body can physically take ( )
  longhorndaniel | May 29, 2013 |
This book has been on my wish lists (yes, I have one on amazon, one on cliff's, 1 on Bookcrossing and one here although I need to add a lot of books I want to goodread for many years.)

So it was so much fun to receive a package from Hong on with 2 books I have been wanting to read for many years. Thanks azuki.
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
Fantastic, page-turning tail of shipwrecked sailors in captivity to various groups of Arabs in the Sahara. Their tale of how they survived (some of them) and life on the desert is astounding. The survival tale was actually first written by the captain of the boat in the early 19th century and was a popular adventure book back in the day. Dean King discovered this tale and brought it back to light with additional background and corroborating information.
  DrBrewhaha | Jan 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dean Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Vicq, Fearn CutlerDesignersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ward, G. W.Mapssecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The crew of the Commerce seem to have been designed to suffer themselves, that the world, through them, might learn.
--Archibald Robbins, A Journey Comprising an Account of the Loss of the Brig Commerce
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In his five crossings of the Sahara, Sidi Hamet had never seen worse conditions.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316159352, Paperback)

Some stories are so enthralling they deserve to be retold generation after generation. The wreck in 1815 of the Connecticut merchant ship, Commerce, and the subsequent ordeal of its crew in the Sahara Desert, is one such story. With Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival, Dean King refreshes the popular nineteenth-century narrative once read and admired by Henry David Thoreau, James Fenimore Cooper, and Abraham Lincoln. King’s version, which actually draws from two separate first person accounts of the Commerce's crew, offers a page-turning blend of science, history, and classic adventure. The book begins with a seeming false start: tracing the lives of two merchants from North Africa, Seid and Sidi Hamet, who lose their fortunes—and almost their lives—when their massive camel caravan arrives at a desiccated oasis. King then jumps to the voyage of the Commerce under Captain Riley and his 11-man crew. After stops in New Orleans and Gibraltar, the ship falls off course en route to the Canary Islands and ultimately wrecks at the infamous Cape Bojador. After the men survive the first predations of the nomads on the shore, they meander along the coast looking for a way inland as their supplies dwindle. They subsist for days by drinking their own urine. Eventually, to their horror, they discover that they have come aground on the edge of the Sahara Desert. They submit themselves, with hopes of getting food and water, as slaves to the Oulad Bou Sbaa. After days of abuse, they are bought by Hamet, who, after his own experiences with his failed caravan (described at the novels opening), sympathizes with the plight of the crew. Together, they set off on a hellish journey across the desert to collect a bounty for Hamet in Swearah. King embellishes this compelling narrative throughout with scientific and historical material explaining the origins of the camel, the market for English and American slaves, and the stages of dehydration. He also humanizes the Sahrawi with background on the tribes and on the lives of Hamet and Seid. This material, doled out in sufficient amounts to enrich the story without derailing it makes Skeletons on the Zahara a perfectly entertaining bit of history that feels like a guilty pleasure. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Chronicles the hardships encountered by twelve American sailors who, in 1815, were shipwrecked on the coast of North Africa, captured, sold into slavery, and sent on a difficult odyssey through the perilous heart of the Sahara.

» see all 4 descriptions

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