Tim Severin

As far as I can recall, I first encountered Tim Severin on television, probably in a doco about one of his recreations of a legendary voyage. He's done a number of such projects, taking historical or mythological figures and retracing a probable route to see how closely the travelogue that has been passed down over the generations resembles what you'd encounter en route today.

I was particularly taken by The Brendan Voyage, more than likely the subject of the aforementioned doco, which took Severin and his offsiders across the Atlantic in a leather currach, retracing the probable route of St Brendan and making it as far as Newfoundland. The legendary Brendan story is full of encounters with sea monsters and other seemingly imaginary phenomena but Severin's account has the voyagers encountering natural and understandable explanations for elements in the legends that could easily be dismissed as the product of ignorance fuelled by an overactive imagination.

There are similar themes running through The Sinbad Voyage, where the same basic outfit sailed a traditional Arab dhow held together with rope made from coconut fibre rather than nails from Oman in the Persian Gulf to China and The Jason Voyage, retracing a route from Greece to Georgia that seems to have been the basis for the quest for the Golden Fleece.

Each of those journeys, along with subsequent recreations of Ulysses' voyage from Troy to Ithaca, a Crusader's travels from France to the Middle East, an attempt to cross the Pacific in a bamboo raft and quests in search of Genghis Khan, Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe and a voyage through the Spice Islands retracing the travels of evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, necessarily involved considerable historical research, which makes Severin a fairly obvious candidate for the sweeping historical saga that sits on the edge of mythology and popular legend.

He's tackled two of those, the Viking trilogy (Odinn's Child, Sworn Brother and King's Man) and the adventures of Hector Lynch, where a seventeen-year-old boy and his sister are captured in southwest Ireland by north African Barbary corsairs from North Africa and the boy goes on to travel to the furthest corners of the known world.

Viking Series:

Odinn's Child (2005)

Sworn Brother (2005)

King's Man (2005)

The Adventures of Hector Lynch:

Corsair (2007)

Buccaneer (2008)

Sea Robber (2009)


Tracking Marco Polo (1964)

Explorers of the Mississippi (1968)

The Golden Antilles (1970)

The African Adventure (1973)

Vanishing Primitive Man (1973)

The Oriental Adventure: Explorers of the East (1976) 

The Brendan Voyage (1978)

The Sinbad Voyage (1983) 

The Jason Voyage: The Quest for the Golden Fleece (1986)

The Ulysses Voyage (1987)

Crusader (1989) 

In Search of Genghis Khan (1991)

The China Voyage (1994)

The Spice Islands Voyage (1997) 

In Search of Moby-Dick (1999)

Seeking Robinson Crusoe (aka In Search of Robinson Crusoe) (2002)

© Ian Hughes 2012