Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

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9780316159357: Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

A masterpiece of historical adventure, Skeletons on the Zahara chronicles the true story of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the perilous heart of the Sahara.
The western Sahara is a baking hot and desolate place, home only to nomads and their camels, and to locusts, snails and thorny scrub--and its barren and ever-changing coastline has baffled sailors for centuries. In August 1815, the US brig Commerce was dashed against Cape Bojador and lost, although through bravery and quick thinking the ship's captain, James Riley, managed to lead all of his crew to safety. What followed was an extraordinary and desperate battle for survival in the face of human hostility, starvation, dehydration, death and despair.
Captured, robbed and enslaved, the sailors were dragged and driven through the desert by their new owners, who neither spoke their language nor cared for their plight. Reduced to drinking urine, flayed by the sun, crippled by walking miles across burning stones and sand and losing over half of their body weights, the sailors struggled to hold onto both their humanity and their sanity. To reach safety, they would have to overcome not only the desert but also the greed and anger of those who would keep them in captivity.
From the cold waters of the Atlantic to the searing Saharan sands, from the heart of the desert to the heart of man, Skeletons on the Zahara is a spectacular odyssey through the extremes and a gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Dean King is the author of the national bestseller Skeletons on the Zahara. He has written for many publications, including Men's Journal, Esquire, Garden & Gun, Granta, Outside, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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Descripción Little, Brown Company, United States, 2005. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Everywhere hailed as a masterpiece of historical adventure, this enthralling narrative recounts the experiences of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the bone-dry heart of the Sahara. The ordeal of these men - who found themselves tested by barbarism, murder, starvation, death, dehydration, and hostile tribes that roamed the desert on camelback - is made indelibly vivid in this gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780316159357

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Descripción Little, Brown Company, United States, 2005. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Everywhere hailed as a masterpiece of historical adventure, this enthralling narrative recounts the experiences of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the bone-dry heart of the Sahara. The ordeal of these men - who found themselves tested by barbarism, murder, starvation, death, dehydration, and hostile tribes that roamed the desert on camelback - is made indelibly vivid in this gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780316159357

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