“This is a brilliant, beautifully written testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The book tells Earl de Blonville’s own story as the leader of Australia’s first expedition to the Arctic in 1985-86. It illustrates the power of one man’s vision and the courage of the author and his men to rise above extreme adversity to carry it out. But if you are looking for a recipe book on leadership you won’t find it here. Earl has crafted a multi-layered narrative, splicing together self-critical—at times hilarious—reflections on his own leadership with the excitement, vitality and extreme danger of young men kayaking and sailing in wild seas of Arctic ice. It offers rare glimpses into the extraordinary weight of responsibility he shouldered together with a boatload of philosophical nuggets. Yet what most inspired me to read on was a barely articulated compassion for humanity and growing wisdom that infused Earl’s decisions and actions, shaping his leadership character as he journeyed. This book should appeal to anyone seeking to chart a course for themselves or their organization in the rapidly changing uncharted landscape and uncertain futures of our fragile planet. This inspiring true story has the mythical power of an archetypal ‘hero’s journey’ – a 21st century Odyssey. Given the high incidence of suicide and violence among young Australian males, Earl offers an inspiring role model—so urgently needed today. This book should be recommended reading on the new Australian National High School Curriculum and in youth detention centres, globally.”
Professor Jennifer M Gidley PhD.
President. World Futures Studies Federation (UNESCO Partner)
“When I first sat down with this book I expected to read a few chapters a day. Just 36 hours after opening it, I closed the last page at midnight and collapsed into bed. The action is utterly engrossing. However, with each harrowing tale I expected to learn how leadership saved the day and how the lesson could be applied to my own situation. When the lesson didn’t appear I was frustrated. I pushed on – increasingly impatiently – waiting for the infallible secrets of leadership to be revealed; for the universal aphorism, the checklist of do’s and don’ts, the user’s manual to leadership.
But that lesson never came. It was not until I finished the final chapter that I understood the book’s real point: that leadership cannot be taught, no leader is infallible and there is no single recipe for success. The important thing is that whatever the circumstance, we must continue to lead, to make decisions, to not sit still and simply wait for the tide to take our kayaks. On reflection I was also relieved; relieved in the knowledge that even the greatest leaders are not superhuman but sometimes make the wrong call and suffer guilt, indecision and cowardice. I can now approach my own life with renewed confidence. It has been an extraordinary 36 hours.”
Executive Director: EarthWatch
“Throughout the expedition, danger was ever-present. The crew faced appalling weather conditions, as well as cramped living quarters, so it was no surprise that tensions boiled over on a number of occasions. It would have been miraculous if it had happened otherwise. I’m sure that without Earl’s doggedness and leadership, the expedition would have been aborted.
This is a page-turner for all readers, young or old – in every sense a boy’s own adventure story.”
Dr Phillip Murray.
Medical Director, Ireland
“I started reading this book expecting to find instructional advice on leadership, what I found was an exciting journey and a story I couldn’t put down. It was a great read! The insights into what makes people tick was thought provoking for me, the abilities to push beyond what seems possible was inspiring. I’m glad I wasn’t on Desperation Island!”
Company Director, International Yachtsman
“I discovered this book in a box, covered in dust, half way across the Gobi Desert. We were travelling by 4WD from Melbourne to London via Mongolia. It was autumn. Camels drifted past as freezing winds swirled down from snow-capped mountains, billowing our exposed tent. The book was a perfect choice for such a wild place. Of all the incredible survival situations the author encountered, Desperation Island was the highlight. I finished reading it before we left Mongolia for Kazakhstan, understanding the difference between what really matters and what doesn’t, and realizing that on my next trip, I wanted to explore some of the world’s more challenging places. This is a really inspiring book and I recommend it to anyone interested in people and adventure.
Central Asian Adventure Traveller