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Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell
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Overloaded Ark (original 1953; edition 2001)

by Gerald Durrell (Author)

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4551054,494 (3.9)30
Gerald Durrell, director and owner of Jersey Zoo, was internationally famous for his amusing books about collecting wild animals, in particular My Family and Other Animals. But The Overloaded Ark, his first, remains his funniest book. It describes an expedition to the remote territory of the Cameroons in West Africa, before independence. 'A delightful book . . . You can feel his bush-shirt sticking to his back . . . Bagging a monitor, smoking out a Pangolin (scaly anteater), celebrating the capture of the rare Angwantibo (small lemur), bird liming for Giant Kingfishers on the warm, milky waters of Lake Soden: he communicates every detail of his experiences with just the right degree of zest.' New Statesman… (more)
Member:ChristinaPace
Title:Overloaded Ark
Authors:Gerald Durrell (Author)
Info:Gardners Books (2001), 222 pages
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The Overloaded Ark by Gerald Durrell (1953)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Most people were only familiar with Lawrence Durrell until BBC aired The Durrells in Corfu. With that film version of the family, young Gerry became a popular character, and the real life Gerald's writings and nature conservancy work finally got the attention it deserves. In this book, Gerald goes to Cameroon to collect up a variety of wildlife specimens for study. The shenanigans that ensue are reminiscent of the antics from the BBC series, animals acting true to their nature and Gerald hanging on for dear life. It was a wonderful, quick read that had me smiling and laughing throughout. Gerald's description of the specimens he collects, their behavior, and the surrounding landscape is always lyrical and captivating, just scientific enough to satisfy curiosity.

5 bones!!!!!
Highly recommended. ( )
  blackdogbooks | Jul 31, 2022 |
This book is about his first wildlife collecting trip- to Cameroon in Central Africa- with a colleague John Yealland, who specialized in birds.... Just as interesting as his descriptions of tracking and catching the wildlife are his accounts of travel into remote areas, encounters with native people, working to build cages, feed and tend to the creatures, some of which had never been kept in captivity before.... So many curious creatures Durrell found- the Calabar ground python whose head looks like its tail, the giant otter shrew (the internet tells me it is not a real shrew but a tenrec), the beautiful gaboon viper whose back is marked with a row of perfect rectangles, the rare and coveted angwantibo- a lemur not to be confused with the potto, the brush tailed porcupine which led him to a nasty encounter in a cave. Durrell crawled into a lot of caves in this book. In particular looking for bats but he founds lots of other wildlife in the dark. Also tromped around the thick forest after nightfall to catch nocturnal animals, and followed packs of dogs in the hope of catching a serval- he saw one close at hand but never caught one. The dogs several times tracked down giant monitor lizards instead. There are lots of monkeys mentioned, beautiful birds of many sorts, chameleons, great snakes and diminutive antelope. Last of all a chimpanzee named Chumley. I'm sure I've read about Chumley in one of his other books, probably it was Encounter with Animals? I was sad to read of his end in this one...

There's so much more. Description of the landscape and surroundings are very detailed. The book closes with a short account of his trip home on board ship with the collection. He took a lot of care over their health and handling, and only had a few losses. With relief at the end of the journey he finally saw the animals loaded onto zoo vans, headed for their new homes. It's nice there is a little index in the back listing all the species mentioned in the text. The ink illustrations by Sabine Bauer are lovely.

more at the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Dec 17, 2017 |
What a blend of reactions I have to this little book. I love Durrell, always have. But it is hard to read the way animals were then collected for zoos. The young Durrell cared lots for his creatures, but he was willing to shoot guns inside caves to scare bats into reach for capture. Humour, rhapsodic moments in the writing, and an ark full of insight are provided here. Buckle your seatbelt, sensitive modern reader. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Jul 13, 2014 |
Naturalist and author Gerald Durrell writes in an open, friendly manner while still managing to impart a lot of information and his first book, The Overloaded Ark, is a fine example of the style and humor that were to become his trademarks in all his later works. This is the story of his first animal collecting expedition as he travels to British Cameroon in 1947 with ornithologist John Yealland. Their primary goal was in the collecting of birds, reptiles and small mammals that were shipped back to various zoos in Britain.

Although well able to see the funny side of his interactions with both the natives as well as the animals that he came into contact with, I couldn’t help but miss the laugh-out-loud humor that is to be found in his Corfu Trilogy. The difference is his exuberance and delight in poking fun at his family members that was such a big part of the trilogy.

The Overloaded Ark is a delightful, yet somewhat dated read. What does remain fresh is Durrell’s obvious love of nature and his winsome manner in passing these stories on to his readers. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Apr 3, 2014 |
Durrell's voice is winsome, I think, and a little wry, which to my ear dates more slowly than some other, more proper and ponderous nature writers. I've seen other reviewers complaining about the use of pidgin and the colonial attitude evinced by the author, but it strikes me as perfectly accurate to the early 1950s. There are also parts about the trapping, keeping, and selling animals I find unsavoury but true to the times. On the whole, though, his sheer love of wildlife wins the day for me, and Durrell expostulating with dilatory young boys holding dead birds (which they insist are perfectly healthy) is laugh-out-loud funny even after all this time. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gerald Durrellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baur, SabineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terán Bleiberg, Nazaret deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerlund, Hans G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. (Gen. vii, xv)
Dedication
for John Yealland In Memory of Birds and Beasts and The Beef That No Fit Die
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The ship nosed its way though the morning mist, across a sea as smooth as milk.
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Gerald Durrell, director and owner of Jersey Zoo, was internationally famous for his amusing books about collecting wild animals, in particular My Family and Other Animals. But The Overloaded Ark, his first, remains his funniest book. It describes an expedition to the remote territory of the Cameroons in West Africa, before independence. 'A delightful book . . . You can feel his bush-shirt sticking to his back . . . Bagging a monitor, smoking out a Pangolin (scaly anteater), celebrating the capture of the rare Angwantibo (small lemur), bird liming for Giant Kingfishers on the warm, milky waters of Lake Soden: he communicates every detail of his experiences with just the right degree of zest.' New Statesman

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