Western Australia

Camel in the Simpson Desert
Photo by Markus Staas used under a Creative Commons license.

Robyn Davidson, Tracks (Vintage, 1995).
In 1977, after two years of training camels, Davidson set out to walk from the vicinity of Alice Springs, in heart of Australia, across the outback 1,700 miles to the Indian Ocean, which she found south of Carnarvon, W.A. She did this alone, but for her dog Diggity and four camels, and this is her story. The desert’s solitude appealed to Davidson, and to others as well — when she accepted financial support from National Geographic, she shared her trek with others. Lucky for us: the popularity of the magazine’s coverage prompted her to write this book.

Here are some passages. Sarah Ferrell (The New York Times) says the book is much more than the usual descriptions of obstacles met and surmounted. Tim Forcer liked the book but was disappointed by its relative lack of naturism. Susan Wyndham wondered if Davidson was mad. karen said it was just OK. Bobby Matherne reviewed it. This reading group guide is probably of more use to those who have read the book. You can listen to this 2006 interview with Davidson. This page explains how to listen to another interview with Davidson hosted by the National Museum of Australia.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Batavia Ship in Lelystad Netherlands
Photo by Yapsalot used under a Creative Commons license.

Simon Leys, The Wreck of the Batavia (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006).
Two completely distinct works under one cover. The first is a short (60 small pages) account of the wreck of the Batavia, a Dutch vessel en route from Holland to Indonesia which ran ashore on the reefs of the Houtman Absrolhos, fifty miles of southwest Australia. The crew and passengers had time to evacuate and salvage much from the ship. A contingent set sail for Indonesia for help, leaving the remainder to a seventeenth-century version of The Lord of the Flies. Some of the remains of the expedition are now in Fremantle, Western Australia. The second book (even shorter at 50 page) is a memoir of a tour in the late 1950s on a fishing boat – one of the last operating under sail – out of Etel, Brittany. “In its heyday, Etel had a tuna-fishing fleet of nearly two hundred sailing boats – yawls, ketches and cutters – but these were progressively replaced by motor vessels, and now only two yawls remain: Prosper and Étoile de France. ” Leys sailed on the Prosper.

Here is Google Book Search. Here are reviews from Ray Cassin (The Age), Peter Robb (The Monthly), and David Warren. Here are posts from Jen, t.s., and Dave Coulter. See also William Coleman’s take.

Buy it now at Amazon.com.