W. Hodding Carter,
A Viking Voyage:
In Which an Unlikely
Crew of Adventurers
Attempts an Epic Journey
to the New World

(Bantam, 2000)

W. Hodding Carter describes his quest to retrace the voyage of Leif Eriksson from Greenland to Vinland, 1,000 years after the original voyage.

What begins as a whimsical notion quickly mushrooms into a major project as Carter becomes more enamored of the idea of making the voyage in a knarr (pronounced "kah-narr"). Undeterred by his own lack of sailing experience, let alone experience in arctic sailing, Carter consults boat builders, Viking experts -- many of whom tried to discourage him -- and travels to Scandinavia to look at artifacts. His search for funding nets him the sole sponsorship of Lands' End, the popular direct mail merchant; readers who are Lands' End customers may recall articles about the project in the catalogues.

As the knarr, to be named Snorri, takes shape in a Maine boatyard, Carter has to find a crew, make arrangements to get Snorri to Greenland and attend to a million different details. He finds a captain intrigued by the project, although he expresses concern about the marked lack of experience of the other crew members. The captain's concerns are borne out on the journey, which ends abruptly when Snorri's rudder, not coincidentally the most difficult piece to reconstruct, breaks. Not one to be discouraged, Carter immediately begins planning for another successful try -- this time wearing mostly authentic Viking garb, no less.

The anecdotal narrative is engaging, funny and very personal. No dry ship's log this -- Carter pulls out the stops as he recounts the crew's adventures and misadventures, on the sea and off. He paints accurately the emotional range and toll of such a journey, describing the low times as well as the high.

What is at the heart of A Viking Voyage is the will to do what others dream of doing and the refusal to defer that dream to "reality" or "common sense." The inner voyage becomes seamlessly intertwined with the outer voyage as the crew of eight becomes solidified into a unique family unit.

Many of us are not likely to hare off after the ideas that drift through our brains, even if we like to read about others doing just that thing. For us armchair adventurers, A Viking Voyage is just the ticket.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]



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