Gripping tale

gino-in-kayak

“This engrossing book tells the story of two Arctic expeditions. In 1930 a 23-year old Englishman named Gino Watkins took a motley band of young adventurers to East Greenland, ostensibly to explore the possibility of a trans-Arctic air route. Some 60 years later another remarkable young man, Earl de Blonville, returned to the same unforgiving coast to lead an expedition that was largely inspired by Watkins’s dangerous appeal. As Gino’s nephew, I was brought up with only the legend of his life, since the man himself had vanished in an icy fjord when aged only 25. De Blonville makes this legend real, partly with a forensic re-appraisal of Gino, but more vividly with his no-holds-barred account of his own expedition. This is a gripping tale of extraordinary complexity. As one would expect of an Arctic adventure, there are crescendos of excitement, with storms, near-fatal incidents and shipwrecks. But this derring-do is counterbalanced with a more thought-provoking theme, involving disappointments, betrayals and self-doubt. For Gino, the appeal of the Arctic lay largely in the solitude. Perhaps most explorers share the same desire to escape the social world to pursue a private dream. But for any expedition to survive extreme conditions, its members must be prepared to live and work as a team. ‘Hell is other people’, as Jean-Paul Sartre observed. If that axiom is true of a Parisian café, it is, as de Blonville shows, still more so in an Arctic tent.”

Hamish Scott

Scotland.

Hamish’s father, Jamie Scott, was Watkins’ sledging partner and biographer

What makes a leader?

edb-koge-bugt

“If there was a golden age of Australian adventuring, it was the late 20th century. From the 60s to the 90s there was a palpable spirit of possibility, an alchemy with our affinity for wilderness and an almost nation-defining pride in the Big Crazy Undertaking. Earl de Blonville was a part of this mix, from the time of his solo sea kayak baptism at the age of 11 through a paddling circumnavigation of Tasmania that no one thought possible. Fast forward past countless other Big Adventurous Ideas, to the primary subject of this tome, Earl’s seventh major kayak expedition tracking the 1000km, 1930s Arctic route of British Arctic explorer Gino Watkins who disappeared in Greenland. Gino was the inspiration for this 1986 expedition. Earl’s inspired writing and willingness to go into dark, ego-busting territory has us gripped, as his expedition goes from ambitious to haphazard to downright foolhardy. It provides fertile environment for Earl to peer into the mirror and contemplate – what makes an adventurer? What makes a leader? This is exploration of the explorer as much as of the expedition.”

Chris Ord.

Editor: Outer Edge Magazine

Disarmingly frank

gsj-koge-b

“A disarmingly frank account of the personalities that battle, not only the extreme landscape, but each other as they overcome wild storms, mechanical failure and near deadly dunkings as the winter freeze descends. The writing soars when the author describes scenes of beauty including the northern lights and the iceberg-ridden coastline that the expedition must battle through. A fascinating insight into ambition, courage and perseverance against the odds.”

Andrew Hughes.

Outdoor Education specialist

Dare to dream

gsj-koge

“How Earl and his hard-bitten team survive their battle with the elements is nothing short of a miracle.  Earl is a romantic who knows how to bring history alive. He is a fine lyrical writer with enchanting passages on the subtlety and spirituality of polar seascapes. Importantly, he is brutally honest with descriptions of modern Inuit culture, with the rawness of basic living in makeshift camps ashore and with the agony of personality clashes. Every nautical mile of this journey is hard-won.  For Earl, there could be no turning back. Thankfully, even in today’s straightjacket world, there are still those who put everything on the line and dare to dream.”

Colin Monteath.

Polar explorer and wilderness photographer

Total immersion

edb-training-for-gl-1986

It’s not enough to have some kayaking skills, you must be the ocean. You must look ahead, feel the surge, know the ocean’s power and become one with it, so that the kayak is no longer your boat, but your body. It is merely an extension of your consciousness, not a thing apart, but one with you. You must make it dance over the waves, skip across the sea and flow with the tides and winds. Only then will you be totally immersed in the fullness of power that is the Earth’s heartbeat.