Savage Coast - The Book


“How Earle and his hard-bitten team survive their battle with the elements is nothing short of a miracle. Earle 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 Earle, 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 MonteathPolar explorer & photographer

“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. Earle 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, Earle’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. Earle’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 Earle 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 OrdEditor: Outer Edge Magazine

“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.”"

Richard GilmoreExecutive Director, Earthwatch Australia

“This is a brilliant, beautifully written testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The book tells Earle 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. Earle 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 Earle’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, Earle 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, PhDPresident, World Futures Studies Federation (UNESCO Partner)

“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, Earle 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 ScottSon of Jamie Scott, Arctic explorer, author, and expedition partner of Gino Watkins

“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 Earle’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 MurrayMedical Consultant, Ireland

“This book is a powerful account of an expedition that Earle de Blonville led to East Greenland in 1985-86. Australia has had a long involvement in Antarctica, and the achievements of Douglas Mawson and Phillip Law are widely recognised. However, with the exception of the controversial Hubert Wilkins, there has been little Australian involvement with the Arctic. When Earle began planning his expedition he set up an Australian Advisory Panel, which included Dr Phillip Law, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Sir John Holland, John Bertrand and Dr Eleanor Rymill, for whom his vessel was named. As Australia’s then Minister for Science I was happy to join, and secured Government recognition and assistance. Earle also recruited support from Britain, where his patrons included The Prince of Wales, Lord Shackleton – son of the great Ernest – and the polar explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs. This is a powerful story of privation, courage, obstinacy and tenacity, full of sharp insights, vividly written, well illustrated with useful maps – an unvarnished record of a major achievement. The expedition took place in 1985-86, but the story, with its freshness and immediacy, is timeless, demonstrating what charismatic leadership can achieve, against all odds.”"

Professor the Hon. Barry Jones AC FAAAustralian Minister for Science 1983-90

“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 HughesOutdoor Education specialist
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