Shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2015
In this ground-breaking account of life on two massive container ships, award-winning writer Horatio Clare uncovers the hidden realities of life in the globalised world of 21st-century merchant shipping. Joining the crew as a pioneering shipboard writer-in-residence, he first travels to Los Angeles via the Mediterranean, Suez and the Far East, before exchanging tropical heat for the freezing north Atlantic on a journey from Antwerp to Montreal. With captains and crew as his teachers he not only begins to comprehend the endless labour which dominates life within the noisy confines of these enormous vessels, but also gains insight into the practical consequences of global trade, with its dependence on market-led consumerism and structural socio-economic inequality. And like sailors in every generation, he experiences not only dramatic and terrifying storms, and extremes of heat, cold and physical discomfort, but also moments of peace, elation and quiet companionship.
As Clare weaves into his own log-book incidents from maritime history and the stories that seamen still tell, he finds that despite modern technology, the sailor’s relationship with the all-powerful sea remains largely unchanged and still as little understood by landlubbers. Travelling through time as well as across oceans, this gripping but sensitive account takes its place in the great tradition of sea-faring literature.
'Stupendous and extraordinarily exciting.'
'Both romantic and realistic, written from the heart but crafted with a seafarer's passionate precision.'
'Acutely observed and surprisingly moving...Clare's writing everywhere is of the highest order, assured, probing and alert. But it is his ability to convey the strange effect on the human spirit of being at sea that raises this book above the ordinary.'