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From the manic Lumberjack to the Robinson Crusoe-type “It’s man”. Michael Palin (1943, Sheffield, England) his resume is just as diverse as the characters he played throughout his life. Looking at what he has achieved in his career so far, the biggest question of all may be: who is Michael Palin? Next to the fact that his fame rose high as a co-creator of the famous British sketch comedy show ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, many people will also know him as the globetrotter in his acclaimed travel documentaries at the BBC.
Besides being an actor, a comedian, a screenplay writer and a television presenter, Palin is also the author of a wide range of books of different genres. Not only did he write a collection of witty limericks, a couple of children’s books and two novels, this jack-of-all-trades has also faithfully kept and published his diaries since the beginning of his career in the 60s. Not to mention the travel books he wrote accompanying his documentaries.
Starting his world traveller on-screen identity in 1989 by recreating the “Around the World in 80 Days” journey of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, Palin hasn’t sat still. “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”, he once wrote. To put this statement into force, he caught planes to far-flung corners of the world like Tasmania, the Falklands and the Canadian Arctic for the field research of the latest book he can add to his bibliography: ‘Erebus: The story of a ship’. This book tells the story of the 19th century maritime adventures of HMS Erebus that was part of a doomed British expedition in northern Canada.
“HMS Erebus was the flagship on two of the most significant maritime journeys in our history. One reached the furthest south any ship had ever been, the other met with disaster in the search for the Northwest Passage. Both journeys took enormous risks to challenge the perception of what was possible at the time. The discovery of HMS Erebus beneath the waters of the Canadian Arctic just two and a half years ago adds yet another twist to this extraordinary story. It’s a story of courage and folly, of staggering success and terrible suffering. A story motivated by a refusal to accept that there should be such a thing as the Unknown”, Palin told in 2017.
How was the ship constructed and what did it look like? Who were the captains that shared the ship’s journeys? What was life on board like for them and their crew? Palin explains the epic scientific explorations made with the sailing vessel in vivid detail. The first one in 1839 to Antarctica and the second six years’ later that ended in disaster. “The more detail you unearth, the more you realise what exciting times those were in the 1840’s, when crews crowded onto small ships to explore the Great Unknown”, Palin wrote on his blog. Illustrated with maps, paintings and engravings make ‘Erebus, the story of a ship’ Palin’s first historical non-fiction book ever.
“My work is interesting, what I am is not, really.” Known for being down-to-earth, Palin lives in the same house in north London he bought in the 60s and is still happily married to the same girl he met when he was 15. In 2000 he was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television drama and travel documentaries.
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