Page 203. " The Frenchman, whose name was Henri Grien "

Chatwin provides a colourful account of Charley Milward's encounters with Henri Grien aka Louis de Rougemont. But a full transcript of Grien's text, The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont, including stories of water wizards, barking alligators and swimming in a whale's head, can be found here.  

Page 210. " Captain John Davis "
An aerial view of the Straits of Magellan shows the treacherous terrain Davis had to navigate
Public DomainAn aerial view of the Straits of Magellan shows the treacherous terrain Davis had to navigate - Credit: Jacques Descloitres

Davis sailed with Thomas Cavendish who was commanding the Black Pinnace at the time. On May 20th 1592 the ships lost touch and Davis ran into problems in the Strait of Magellan.

Chatwin reprints a passage from his diaries, published as The Voyages and Works of John Davis in 1880.  Once Davis had cleared the Straits he anchored at Penguin Island, but was later caught in a storm and swept towards the Falkland Islands: the first recorded sighting.

Page 214. " Wide World Magazine "

Launched in the mid-nineteenth century Wide World Magazine claimed to tell fantastic but true stories of adventure, even if 'truth is stranger than fiction.' It was caught out by the de Rougemont hoax, but valiantly turned it to its advantage and continued publishing until 1965.

Page 216. " Fanny Kemble "

Fanny Kemble
Public DomainFanny Kemble - Credit: Library of Congress
Born into a theatrical family Fanny Kemble had a glittering career on the London stage until she moved to the US where she married a plantation owner in 1834. Horrified by the conditions of her husband's slaves she became a fierce abolitionist, got a divorce and returned to the stage in 1847. She moved back to London in 1877 where she became an inspiration to Henry James, a leading light on the London social scene, and Grien's employer.

Page 217. " Conrad used it for his story Falk "
Joseph Conrad
Public DomainJoseph Conrad - Credit: George Charles Beresford

Joseph Conrad's novels and stories frequently drew on his own sea adventures. He had sailed down the coast of Venezuela; travelled from England to Java; ventured into the Congo; and made a record-breaking trip from Sunderland to Adelaide, Australia in 64 days. Falk appeared in the collection Typhoon and Other Stories (1903).

Page 217. " which, like Robinson Crusoe's, was too heavy "

In Defoe's classic adventure story, Robinson Crusoe makes a canoe out of a single cedar tree:

The boat was really much bigger than ever I saw a canoe or periagua, that was made of one tree, in my life. Many a weary stroke it had cost, you may be sure; and had I gotten it into the water, I make no question but I should have begun the maddest voyage, and the most unlikely to be performed, that ever was undertaken.

But all my devices to get it into the water failed me; though they cost me infinite labor too.

Page 217. " corroborees "
A corroboree
Public DomainA corroboree - Credit: National Library of Australia

The corroboree of the Australian Aborigines is a ceremonial meeting whereby aspects of The Dreamtime are acted out in dance, music and costume. It's a subject Chatwin would explore in his masterpiece The Songlines.


Page 218. " the Fashoda Incident "

The media outing of Louis de Rougement's hoax in 1898 competed favourably with headlines about such high-profile international affairs as:

the Fashoda Incident, which brought Britain and France close to war as they negotiated colonial territory in East Africa.

the reopening of the Dreyfus case in which Alfred Dreyfus, a French Artillery Officer accused of passing secrets to the Germans, was brought back from Devil's Island where he'd been interred for treason.

and the Battle of Omdurman, in which Kitchener led his army up the Nile to reconquer Sudan.

Page 219. " Darwin's Rheas "


Darwin's Rhea
Public DomainDarwin's Rhea - Credit: John Gould

The Rhea is a rare, flightless bird indigenous to Patagonia. Darwin was told about it by the Indians on his second voyage aboard HMS Beagle.

He later discovered there are different sub-species living in separate parts of Patagonia, which led him to develop his theory that species are not fixed but can evolve and divide.


Page 221. " Charley dined aboard the Good Hope "

HMS Good Hope went into service in 1901 and was stationed in Chile at the start of World War I. She was sunk by a flotilla of German cruisers on 1 November 1914 during the Battle of Coronel, with the loss of all lives.

Page 222. " the plight of his men trapped on Elephant Island "
Endurance sinking
Public DomainEndurance sinking - Credit: Royal Geographic Society

Ernest Shackleton's attempts to cross the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the South Pole was known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. His ship Endurance set out from England on August 8th 1914, although Shackleton didn't join it until September when it reached Buenos Aires. The Endurance ran into trouble in January 1915 when she got trapped in packed ice in the Weddell Sea off South Georgia. Shackleton and his men eventually had to abandon ship in October, and for months they lived on an ice-floe until that broke apart and they managed to escape by lifeboat to Elephant Island.

The men at Elephant Island
Public DomainThe men at Elephant Island - Credit: Frank Hurley

Shackleton was forced to leave his men trapped on the inhospitable island, far from shipping routes, while he attempted to reach the whaling stations at South Georgia, a journey that took him fifteen days at sea and another two overland across uncharted territory. 

He eventually arrived at the whaling station at Stromness and appealed to the Chilean government for help. A naval tug was sent and all 22 men were finally rescued on August 30th 1916, over eighteen months after their ordeal began. 

The inhospitable Elephant Island
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe inhospitable Elephant Island - Credit: Lieutenant Philip Hall, NOAA Corps




Page 224. " Verranzano Narrows Bridge "

At the time it was completed in 1964, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world.  It connects the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.


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