25 September 1940
Jorhat, Assam, British India
|18 December 2020 80) (aged
Timoleague, West Cork, Ireland
|explorer, historian and writer
|Historical fiction, non-fiction
Timothy Severin (25 September 1940 – 18 December 2020 ) was a British explorer, historian, and writer. Severin was noted for his work in retracing the legendary journeys of historical figures. Severin was awarded both the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He received the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for his 1982 book The Sindbad Voyage.
He was born Giles Timothy Watkins in 1940 to Maurice and Inge Watkins in Jorhat, Assam, India, where his father managed a tea plantation.Educated in England from age 7, he attended Tonbridge School and studied geography and history at Keble College, Oxford. He adopted the name Severin to honour his maternal grandmother, who cared for him in his youth.
Severin married twice. His first wife was Dorothy Sherman, a specialist in medieval Spanish literature; that marriage ended in divorce. He later married Dee Pieters.
Severin died on 18 December 2020, aged 80, at home in Timoleague, West Cork, Ireland. He is survived by his daughter from his first marriage, Ida Ashworth, and two grandsons.
While he was an undergraduate at Oxford University, Severin, Stanley Johnson and Michael de Larrabeiti retraced Marco Polo's thirteenth-century journey through Asia on motorcycles, using Polo's The Description of the World as a guide. They travelled from Oxford via Switzerland to Venice, through Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan, surviving sandstorms, floods, motorcycle accidents, and time spent in jail. Severin and his guides rode camels through the Deh Bakri pass to identify the Persian "apples of Paradise" and the hidden hot springs described by Polo. They were unable to complete the voyage due to visa problems at the border of China and returned to England by sea from Bombay.[ citation needed ]
From conquistadors to nineteenth-century gentlemen explorers, Severin follows the routes and tells the stories of the adventurers who have travelled along the US river the Mississippi for hundreds of years, and does so while navigating the length of the river by canoe and launch.
It is theorized by some scholars that the Latin texts of Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (The Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot) dating back to at least 800 AD tell the story of Brendan's (c. 489–583) seven-year voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to a new land and his return. Convinced that the legend was based on historical truth, in 1976 Severin built a replica of Brendan's currach. Handcrafted using traditional tools, the 36-foot (11 m), two-masted boat was built of Irish ash and oak, hand-lashed together with nearly two miles (3 km) of leather thong, wrapped with 49 traditionally tanned ox hides, and sealed with wool grease.
On May 17, 1976, Severin and his crew (George Maloney, Arthur Magan, Tróndur Patursson) sailed from Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry km), arriving at Canada on June 26, 1977, landing on Peckford Island, Newfoundland, before being towed to Musgrave Harbour by the Canadian Coast Guard. Severin told reporters, "We've proved that a leather boat can cross the North Atlantic by a route that few modern yachtsmen would attempt.". Along the way, they had stopped at the Hebrides, the Faroe Islands and Iceland (where they spent the winter until departing again on May 11) en route. He considered that his recreation of the voyage helped to identify the basis for many of the legendary elements of the story: the "Island of Sheep", the "Paradise of Birds", "Crystal Towers", "mountains that hurled rocks at voyagers", and the "Promised Land". Severin's account of the expedition, The Brendan Voyage, became an international best-seller, translated into 16 languages.on the Brendan, and, over more than 13 months, travelled 4,500 miles (7,200
The boat is now featured at the Craggaunowen open-air museum in County Clare, Ireland.
The adventures of the medieval sailor Sindbad, as recorded in One Thousand and One Nights , became the inspiration for Severin's next voyage. After three years of researching the legend and early Arab and Persian sketches of medieval ships, he brought the project to Sur, Oman in 1980. Sponsored by Qaboos bin Said al Said, Sultan of Oman, he guided Omani shipwrights in the construction of the "Sohar", an 87-foot (26.5 m) replica of a ninth-century, lateen-rigged, cotton-sailed Arab dhow. The ship was constructed in seven months of hand-sawn wooden planks sewn together with nearly 400 miles (640 km) of hand-rolled, coconut-husk rope.
Sohar left Oman on 21 November 1980. Navigating by the stars, Severin and his crew of 25 travelled nearly 6,000 miles (9,600 km) in eight months. From Sur they sailed east across the Arabian Sea, south down India's Malabar Coast to Lakshadweep and on to Calicut, India. The next phase of their voyage took them down the coast of India to Sri Lanka. From Galle they sailed across the Indian Ocean, on route they were becalmed in the doldrums for nearly a month, suffered broken spars, and were nearly run down by freighters, but arrived in Sabang on 1th 17 April, then down the Malacca Straits to Malacca and Singapore arriving 1 June, then on to Guangzhou, China on 6 July.
The epic poem Argonautica , first written down by Apollonius of Rhodes in Alexandria in the late 3rd century BC, became the basis for Severin's next expedition. He began his research into ancient Greek ships and the details of the text in 1981. Master shipwright Vasilis Delimitros of Spetses hand built a 54-foot (16.5 m) replica of a Bronze Age galley based on a scale model of the Argo . In 1984, with twenty volunteer oarsmen, Severin rowed and sailed from northern Greece through the Dardanelles, crossed the Marmara Sea, and passed through the Straits of Bosphorus to the Black Sea, reaching the Phasis delta in then-Soviet Georgia: a voyage of 1,500 miles (2,400 km). Along the way they identified some of the landmarks visited by Jason and his Argonauts, and found a possible explanation for the legend of the Golden Fleece. Severin recounted the expedition in The Jason Voyage (1985).
Once again making use of the Argo from The Jason Voyage, in 1985 Severin followed the route of Ulysses' voyage home in The Odyssey , from Troy to Ithaca in the Ionian islands. Along the way, Severin made tentative or conclusive identifications of The land of the Lotus-eaters, King Nestor's palace, the Halls of Hades, the Roving Rocks, Scylla and Charybdis, and also the sirens. The Ulysses Voyage, published in 1987, tells the story of the expedition, the historical research that went into it, and the discoveries Severin and his crew made along the way.
Nine hundred years after the First Crusade, Tim Severin and Sarah Dormon set out on horseback to follow the 2500 mile route of Duke Godfrey of Boullion and other Crusaders from Belgium to Jerusalem, travelling through the modern lands of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia (itself today consigned to history), Bulgaria, Turkey and Syria. The horses chosen were a riding school palfrey (Mystery) and a Heavy Ardennes (Carty), the latter a descendant of the war horses of Crusader cavalry – what Severin called ‘the Main Battle Tank’ of its day. This journey, after many years of marine expeditions, was a return to long-distance land exploration by Severin. The Journey would take place over 2 years with the horses and riders resting over the winter of 1987/8. Severin was unable to follow exactly the route of Duke Godfrey due to the civil war in the Lebanon, instead routing through Syria and Jordan to reach Jerusalem.
While still a student at the University of Oxford, Severin wrote his thesis on the first European travellers in Central Asia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. With this background, to commemorate the 800th birthday of Genghis Khan he rode with Mongol herdsmen along the route once used by couriers of the Mongolian empire, mingled with camel herders in the Gobi Desert, and ate with Kazakhs in their yurts. His story, part travelogue, part research paper, was published in 1993 under the title In Search of Genghis Khan.
Ancient Chinese texts tell the story of Hsu Fu, a navigator and explorer sent by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in 218 BC into the "Eastern Ocean" in search of life-prolonging drugs. Hsu Fu completed the voyage on a bamboo raft, which some believe took him to America and back.
Severin set out to prove that such a voyage could have been made. On the beach at Sam Son, Vietnam, he oversaw the construction of a 60-foot (18.3 m) long, 15-foot (4.6 m) wide raft built of 220 bamboos and rattan cording, and driven by an 800 square foot (74 square metre), junk-rigged sail. After leaving Asia in May 1993, Severin and his crew faced monsoons, pirates and typhoons before the rattan began rotting and the raft began falling apart in the mid-Pacific. After travelling 5,500 miles (8,850 km) in 105 days, they were forced to abandon the raft about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) short of their destination.
Although the Hsu Fu, as the craft was named, did not complete the trip, Severin believed the voyage had accomplished its purpose. In The China Voyage, published in 1994, he wrote that the expedition had proved that a bamboo raft of the second century BC could have made a voyage across the Pacific, just as Hsu Fu's account recorded.
Following the path of the Pequod , Severin sets out to find a living, white sperm whale. His quest takes him to the remotest parts of the South Pacific: the Philippine island of Pamilacan, whose people hunt whale sharks with their hands and grappling hooks and the Indonesian island of Lamalera, whose people hunt sperm whales with harpoons from open boats. Throughout his expedition, Severin was able to compare Melville's account with the reality he discovers, and to show that much of Melville's material was either borrowed or fabricated.
Severin also wrote historical fiction. The Viking Series, first published in 2005, concerns a young Viking adventurer who travels the world. In 2007 he published The Adventures of Hector Lynch series, set in the late 17th century, about a 17-year-old Corsair.
Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish privateer and Royal Navy officer who spent four years and four months as a castaway (1704–1709) after being marooned by his captain, initially at his request, on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. He survived but died from tropical illness years later while serving as a lieutenant aboard HMS Weymouth off West Africa.
The Northwest Passage (NWP) is the sea lane between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Arctic Archipelago of Canada. The eastern route along the Arctic coasts of Norway and Siberia is accordingly called the Northeast Passage (NEP). The various islands of the archipelago are separated from one another and from Mainland Canada by a series of Arctic waterways collectively known as the Northwest Passages, Northwestern Passages or the Canadian Internal Waters.
Robinson Crusoe is an English adventure novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25 April 1719. Written with a combination of Epistolary, confessional, and didactic forms, the book follows the title character after he is cast away and spends 28 years on a remote tropical desert island near the coasts of Venezuela and Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. The story has been thought to be based on the life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on a Pacific island called "Más a Tierra" which was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966. Pedro Serrano is another real-life castaway whose story might have inspired the novel.
Brendan of Clonfert is one of the early Irish monastic saints and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is also referred to as Brendan the Navigator, Brendan the Voyager, Brendan the Anchorite, and Brendan the Bold. The Irish translation of his name is Naomh Bréanainn or Naomh Breandán. He is mainly known for his legendary voyage to find the “Isle of the Blessed” which is sometimes referred to as “Saint Brendan’s Island”. The written narrative of his journey comes from the immram The Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis.
The Kon-Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Inca god Viracocha, for whom "Kon-Tiki" was said to be an old name. Heyerdal's book on the expedition was entitled The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas. A 1950 documentary film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. A 2012 dramatized feature film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The voyage of the James Caird was a journey of 1,300 kilometres (800 mi) from Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands through the Southern Ocean to South Georgia, undertaken by Sir Ernest Shackleton and five companions to obtain rescue for the main body of the stranded Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917. Many historians regard the voyage of the crew in a 22.5-foot (6.9 m) ship's boat through the "Furious Fifties" as the greatest small-boat journey ever completed.
Anthony John Francis Smith was, among other things, a writer, sailor, balloonist and former Tomorrow's World television presenter. He was perhaps best known for his bestselling work The Body, which has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide and tied in with a BBC television series, The Human Body, known in America by the name Intimate Universe: The Human Body. The series aired in 1998 and was presented by Professor Robert Winston.
David Mayer de Rothschild is a British adventurer, environmentalist, film producer, and heir to the Rothschild fortune.
Colin Angus is a Canadian author and adventurer who is the first person to make a self-propelled global circumnavigation. Due to varying definitions of the term "circumnavigation", debate has arisen as to whether or not the route travelled fulfilled the strictest criteria. As part of the circumnavigation, Angus and his then fiancé Julie Wafaei made the first rowboat crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Europe to mainland North America, and Wafaei became the first Canadian woman to row across any ocean. Colin and Julie have two sons: Leif, born September 2010, and Oliver, born June 2014.
Brandon Creek is a small village located on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland.
William Willis was an American sailor and writer who is famous due to his solo rafting expeditions across oceans.
Robert Douglas "Rob" Gauntlett was an English adventurer, explorer and motivational speaker. In 2006 he became the youngest British climber to reach the summit of Everest.
The Plastiki is a 60-foot (18 m) catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled PET plastic and waste products. Michael Pawlyn of Exploration Architecture worked on the concept design with David de Rothschild and helped to shape some of the key ideas. The craft was built using cradle to cradle design philosophies and features many renewable energy systems, including solar panels, wind and trailing propeller turbines, and bicycle generators. The frame was designed by Australian naval architect Andrew Dovell. The boat's name is a play on the 1947 Kon-Tiki raft used to sail across the Pacific by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, and its voyage roughly followed the same route.
Vital Alsar Ramírez was a sailor and scientist who made several extremely long sailing expeditions. His entire life was linked to nature and the sea. He became professor of economics, although he never acted as such.
Jock Wishart is a maritime and polar adventurer, sportsman and explorer. Until his successful 2011 Old Pulteney Row to the Pole, he was best known for his circumnavigation of the globe in a powered vessel, setting a new world record in the Cable & Wireless Adventurer and for organising and leading the Polar Race.
Tim Cope is an Australian adventurer, author, filmmaker, trekking guide, and public speaker who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria. He has learned to speak fluent Russian and specializes in countries of the former Soviet Union.
Abbotts Cove is a settlement in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is located upon Peckford Island, the largest member of a small chain known as the Wadham Islands or Outer Wadham Group.
The Viracocha expedition were expeditions led by professional explorer Phil Buck in 2000 and 2003 when he led multiple international teams across the Pacific Ocean, traveling from South America to Easter Island on two distinct ancient-style reed rafts with the aim of proving that South American mariners could have reached Easter Island. Both vessels were constructed using four Andean materials: totora reeds, natural fiber rope, cotton sails, and wood.
Between 1966 and 1973, Spanish explorer Vital Alsar led three expeditions to cross the Pacific Ocean by raft – La Pacífica in 1966, La Balsa in 1970 and Las Balsas in 1973. Travelling from Ecuador, South America, to Australia, the first expedition failed, but the second and third succeeded, both setting the record for the longest known raft voyages in history – 8,600 miles (13,800 km) and 9,000 miles (14,000 km) respectively.
Abora is the name of several reed boats built by the German explorer Dominique Görlitz. The expeditions were inspired by previous trans-oceanic expeditions by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Main aim of the Abora expeditions was to prove that a keel-less reed boat could be steered crosswise and against prevailing winds, using sideboards (leeboards) in lieu of a fixed keel. The name of the vessels was derived from the Canarian deity Abora.