Journey To The Edge Of The Earth: True Adventure Of Naval Officer Abhilash Tomy
by Joeanna Rebello Fernandes and Cdr. Abhilash Tomy
publisher: Penguin (2022)
Circumnavigation: this big sounding word means to sail or fly around the Earth. It is the adventure which many brave hearts have attempted, lost lives but many still followed in their footsteps and tried to outdo them by making the conditions tougher. This adventure of circumnavigating the Globe is celebrated in fiction too. Many of us remember the classic ‘Around the world in Eighty days’ by Jules Verne in which Phileas Fogg attempted to do it in eighty days and we too dreamed of doing the same one day.
Cut to reality: Magellan’s expedition circumnavigating of Globe was the first of so attempt in 1500s and in 1895 Joshua Slocum sailed alone around in the world in his battered fishing sloop called the Spray for the first time. But has that adventure of sea sailing ended in this era of jets, luxury cruisers and Boeings and Airbuses? Friends, we still have many adrenaline junkies who consider Sea as their home and riding over the sea waves alone, the ultimate high.
Meet Cmdr Abhilash Tomy ,KC,NM(retd) , the first Indian , the second Asian and 79 th person globally to successfully complete a solo , nonstop circumnavigation of the world under sail in the boat Mhadei in 2012.
“Nonstop” means “Braving every peril of the sea alone. Without stopping at a port or flagging down a passing ship for help…..It also meant rationing food and water to last the entire voyage. And having no other human within arm’s length for days and days..In short it was the Ultimate Survival Challenge.”
More people have climbed up Mount Everest or rocketed into Space than who have done this challenge..This old fashioned middle of the ocean adventure made tougher by having some of conditions like starting the journey with start and finish at same port, crossing equator twice, cross all the longitudes in same direction and take no assistance on the way while circumnavigating the globe. Thinking of this itself gives goosebumps as well as an adrenaline high.
The name of this brilliant adventure detailed in this book makes one recall another adventure from famous National Geography documentary ‘Journey to the edge of universe’ and like that it is a spectacular , book written in lyrical prose and filled with humour ,facts , sea lingo, poems and not the least , the spirit of human resilience. The book starts with the author’s childhood in Kochi , his slowly developing love for sea by time travelling and place travelling stories by Paul, the sail maker ,learning about pirates like Boysie Singh , the lady pirate Ching Shih and the ghost ship the flying Dutchman. The author being a navy brat himself , joined navy and as opportunity arose to go on this once in a life time opportunity of ‘Sagar Parikarma II ‘caught it with his both hands : his literal “grab at the moon”.
Sail it on with Cmdr Abhilash vicariously as he takes made in India ‘Mhadei’ over vast oceans where he regales us with history of various sea legends, ancient navigation methods like stick charts, kamal the cross staff , the back staff , the astrolabe and sextant, sea superstitions –the curse of Ancient mariner , Sea terms like Doldrums, Calms,Tradewinds,Roaring fifties, Sea facts ,Sea ceremonies to be performed for first time equator crossers like lifting 27 kgs weight and drinking ‘somarasa’-the nectar of Gods- made of seawater and spices!.And the blessings of Lord Varuna after this:
“We do hereby charge all the sharks, whales, eels, dolphins, golliwigs, pollywogs, etc., to abstain from eating , playing with or maltreating his person”.
Read this interesting book to find what are golliwigs and pollywogs and how a ‘pollywog’ changes to “shellbacks”
This book not only makes raring to go for the sea voyage but also cautions about the sea dangers and the indomitable human will to survive them.Inspite of having latest gadgets, it was no guarantee that they would be your trusty companion throughout this gritty and glorious journey. The generator had a fit(the Indian jugaad of Microsoft windows worked : switch off and switch on ), unavailability of spares and shortage of water and food etc. tested the willpower to the extreme. These harrowing episodes are interspersed with the tricks and tips of how to cool a wine bottle in the middle of the ocean and how to do laundry in Big Blue with ocean giving a hand definitely lightens the mood. .
Beautifully illustrated with full page colored illustrations and complemented with simple but elegant prose, interesting sea facts presented in simple language blue boxes throughout the book, clever titles of the chapters like ‘Time travel at the International date line’, ‘A trip to the bottom of the ocean’, ‘Where is sea of tranquility’, ‘Staying upright is downright difficult’ makes it the one which can enjoyed not only by teenagers but also by grown up readers. As this sea adventure comes to an end, the reader will definitely find a lust for an adventure in himself.
Fair winds and Following Seas.