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characters Skeletons on the Zahara A True Story of Survival ↠ eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ¼ A spectacular true odyssey through the extremes of the Sahara Desert in the early 19th century Reader and protagonist alike are challenged into new ways of understanding culture clash slavery and the plaA spectacular true odyssey through the extremes of the Sahara Desert in the early 19th century Reader and protagonist alike are challenged into new ways of understanding culture clash slavery and the place of Islam in the social fabric of desert dwelling peoplesIn a calm May morning in 1815 Captain James Riley and the crew of the Commerce left port in Connecticut for an ordinary trading voyage They could never have imagined what awaited them Their nightmare began with a dreadful shipwreck off the coast of Africa a hair raising confrontation with hostile native tribesmen within hours of. When life gets a little tough for me I tend to turn to non fiction books about situations much worse than mine that people have survived – this usually helps to change my perspective a little and make me appreciate what I have rather than what I don’t Normally a dedicated introvert even I have started to struggle a little with lockdown helped by working from home and so a little perspective adjusting was in order – this book fulfilled that perfectly Skeletons on the Zahara tells the terrible story of the crew of the US brig Commerce that in 1815 found itself shipwrecked on the western coast of the Sahara While the ship was lost the crew survivedonly to find themselves robbed enslaved and marched near death across the desert Even if they hadn’t been enslaved life in the desert was brutal relying on camels to provide pretty much all of their nutrients – when the camel’s ran out of milk their urine was next on the menu – and with everyone you came across a potentially dangerous enemy If you’ve ever wondered what happens to a dangerously sunburnt person being rubbed in animal fat and then marched under the desert sun this book has the answer hint – it’s really not prettyShip’s captain James Riley would do what he could to keep his men together and find their way to freedom through the striking of a friendship with one of their captors – a man who unfortunately also had enemies of his own – leading to the most tense moments of the book as they edged towards liberation at the same time as a new potential owner made his moveA gripping page turner that than did the job of making me feel grateful to be in lockdown after all this tale of survival against all odds is worth a readAlso posted at Cannonball Read 12

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Being washed ashore and a hellish confinement in a rickety longboat as they tried without success to escape the fearsome coast Eventually captured by desert nomads and sold into slavery Riley and his men were dragged along on an insane journey through the bone dry heart of the Sahara a region unknown to Westerners Along the way the Americans would encounter everything that could possibly test them barbarism murder starvation plagues of locusts death sandstorms that lasted for days dehydration and hostile tribes that roamed the desert on armies of camels They would discover ancient cit. The uick and the Dead Skeletons on the Zahara was a worthy addition to my “harrowing tales” shelf 42 books and growing Obviously I like this kind of book What makes a good harrowing tale is than depicting suffering deprivation and endurance No a good harrowing tale gives the reader a sense of what ualities allowed the central figure to endure Captain James Riley and eight of his crew shipwrecked on the desolate Atlantic shore of the Sahara desert escaped one band of marauding Arabs in a leaky longboat only to come ashore again half dead to face capture and immediate enslavement by another The men were split into several groups despite Riley’s frantic attempts to keep his crew together and most were traded or resold to other Arab tribesmen who wandered seemingly randomly through the desert Skeletons on the Sahara does a fine job of recreating the fragmented events and making them clear with maps and evocative depictions of the key Arab figures and their nomadic lifestyle I learned for example of the peculiar physiology of camels of the shifting alliances and pecking order of Saharan tribes and of the harsh and implacable conditions on the Sahara which is not despite popular imagery one vast ocean of rolling sand dunes There is also material on the physiology and effects of the extremes of thirst and hunger on the human body I learned to my surprise that drinking seawater is not necessarily fatal as long as it is mixed with fresh water And then there is camel’s urine but enough said on this matter In short the author did a fine job of providing details but not too much detail and not than was warranted by his research which was largely based on the two existing survivor narratives as well as his own experiences attempting to retrace the survivors’ peregrinations through the Sahara As mentioned earlier those who endure in these harrowing tales of survival share certain features and beliefs Sometimes as in the case of Louis Zamparelli of Unbroken fame and the protagonist of this tale Captain James Riley there is faith in and submission to a higher power Riley nearing death in an enslaved trudge across the desert has a vision of a future rescue that keeps him going He comes to believe that God has kept him alive for some particular purpose Moreover Hamet the Arab that Riley has become enslaved to also comes to believe that Riley is being kept alive by the will of Allah “Despite their differences” the author notes “Riley and Hamet both believed in a higher being whether called God or Allah and found unity in his presence in their relationship” Oddly enough a strong bond of mutual respect and trust formed between Riley and his captor Just as important as belief in a higher power however may be the nature of the leader Several examples both positive and negative spring to mind There is at the negative end of the pole the high handedness of a Captain Bligh of the Bounty or the imperial conceit of a Stanley who abandoned his rear column in euatorial Africa On the positive side we have an Ernest Shackleton whose wise shepherding of men and resources brought his entire crew of the stranded Endurance arctic expedition back to civilization; or a John Wesley Powell leader of the first expedition down the Colorado River who faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles yet still brought most of his men back alive Captain Riley while perhaps not as heroic a figure as Shackleton or Powell clearly was cast from a similar mold His actions encouragement and sacrifices single handedly led to the survival of several of his crew though it was impossible for him to save a few who were sold away and never heard of again And as the author makes abundantly clear one last very important factor in survival is companionship Riley’s crew formed strong bonds and clung together in adversity It seems that for some it becomes just as important to survive as a group as to survive individually Riley in particular put his men first although at times this meant he had to make difficult decisions while at other times he faced opposition resentment and ingratitude But he never gave tit for tat Upon his return to the United States Riley became a committed abolitionist whose impassioned condemnation of slavery almost certainly sprang from first hand experience He had it seemed learned something important in captivity “Men though covered with a black skin are not brutes” he concluded “The hypocritical advocate of slavery shall be detested by all mankind”Perhaps not surprisingly when Riley’s account was published in the early 1800s it became an instant classic and later a favorite book of Abraham Lincoln For modern day readers Dean King provides succinct historical background and lucid commentary on early 19th century life providing just enough information on the New England seafaring towns and families that Riley and his men set sail from the types of ships they sailed and life at sea and the relevant national and international political and commercial events All this is grafted onto a distillation of the survivor’s two narratives resulting in a well paced but not over dramatized tale told with enough verve to hold our interest and engage our imaginations and sympathies

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Skeletons on the Zahara A True Story of SurvivalIes and secret oases They would also discover a surprising bond between a Muslim trader and an American sea captain men who began as strangers were forced to become allies in order to survive and in the tempering heat of the desert became friends even as the captain hatched a daring betrayal in order to save his men From the cold waters of the Atlantic to the searing Saharan sands Skeletons on the Zahara is a spectacular odyssey through the extremes Destined to become a classic among adventure narratives Dean King's masterpiece is an unforgettable tale of survival courage and brotherho. Harrowing true survival story of the crew of the American brig Commerce who were shipwrecked off the western coast of Africa in 1815 held as slaves by nomadic tribes and subjected to extreme deprivation in crossing the Zahara Sahara desert in a desperate attempt to reach safety It is a tale of courage tenacity uick thinking adaptability endurance and persuasion Dean King has blended accounts written separately by two survivors along with his own research and his trip retracing the path of the crew’s journey to create a compelling narrative of survival in the face of tremendous adversity The crew endured separation enslavement beatings extremes of heat and cold in the desert sandstorms starvation dehydration and they were tested to their physical and mental limits I found this book well plotted and engrossing The writing is journalistic in style One of my favorite parts is the bond of trust developed between two men of very different culture and language and I thought the author did a great job depicting their characters Content warnings include consumption of bodily fluids insects and worse slaughter of animals slavery and brutality The maps images list of terms cast of characters and footnotes are extremely helpful Recommended to fans of maritime history true adventure and survival stories