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  • Published: 4 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784758578
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $28.00

Erebus: The Story of a Ship

Michael Palin brings to life one of the greatest adventures of all time

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER: the remarkable true story of the exploration ship featured in The Terror

In the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, HMS Erebus undertook two of the most ambitious naval expeditions of all time.

On the first, she ventured further south than any human had ever been. On the second, she vanished with her 129-strong crew in the wastes of the Canadian Arctic, along with the HMS Terror.

Her fate remained a mystery for over 160 years.

Then, in 2014, she was found.

This is her story.
Now available: Michael Palin's North Korea Journals

'Beyond terrific . . . I didn't want it to end.' Bill Bryson

'Illuminated by flashes of gentle wit . . . It's a fascinating story that [Palin] brings full-bloodedly to life.' Guardian

'This is an incredible book . . . The Erebus story is the Arctic epic we've all been waiting for.' Nicholas Crane

'Thoroughly absorbs the reader. . . Carefully researched and well-crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life.' Sunday Times
'A great story . . . Told in a very relaxed and sometimes - as you might expect - very funny Palin style.' David Baddiel, Daily Mail

'Magisterial . . . Brings energy, wit and humanity to a story that has never ceased to tantalise people since the 1840s.' The Times

  • Published: 4 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784758578
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $28.00

About the author

Michael Palin

Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous TV programmes and films, from Monty Python and Ripping Yarns to The Missionary and The Death of Stalin. He has also made several much-acclaimed travel documentaries, his journeys taking him to the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe and Brazil. His books include accounts of his journeys, novels (Hemingway’s Chair and The Truth) and several volumes of diaries. From 2009 to 2012 he was president of the Royal Geographical Society. He received a BAFTA fellowship in 2013, and a knighthood in the 2019 New Year Honours list. He lives in London.

Also by Michael Palin

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Praise for Erebus: The Story of a Ship

Beyond terrific. I didn’t want it to end.

Bill Bryson

With this irresistible and often harrowing account, Michael Palin makes a convincing case that one heroic little ship embodied the golden ago of polar exploration better than any other: HMS Erebus.

John Geiger, co-author of Frozen in Time

At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience. He turns up obscure facts, reanimates essential moments, and never shies away from taking controversial positions. This beautifully produced volume – colour plates, outstanding maps – is a landmark achievement.

Ken McGoogan, author of Fatal Passage

This is an incredible book. I couldn’t put it down. The Erebus story is the Arctic epic we’ve all been waiting for.

Nicholas Crane

Thoroughly absorbs the reader. . . Carefully researched and well-crafted, it brings the story of a ship vividly to life.

Sunday Times

Magisterial . . . A natural storyteller, [Palin] captures beautifully the sense of awe experienced by Ross and his men as they encountered the wonders and terrors of Antarctica . . . He brings energy, wit and humanity to a story that has never ceased to tantalise people since the 1840s.

The Times

Everybody’s talking about it . . . A brilliant book.

Chris Evans, BBC Radio 2

What a book this is! . . . [Palin] brings not just a historian’s and writer’s skills to it, but those of a traveller.

Dan Snow, Dan’s History Hit

I absolutely loved it: I had to read it at one sitting . . . Fascinating.

Lorraine Kelly, ITV Lorraine

A timely account of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find a way through the Northwest Passage . . . [Palin] does an admirable job of recounting the life of this doughty ship, from construction at Pembroke dockyard in 1826 to her last days stuck fast in the ice . . . vivid, evocative stuff . . . pulls together very effectively much of the work that’s been done to establish the truth about Franklin’s fate.

Erica Wagner, Financial Times

[Palin] successfully reanimates the corpse, bringing Erebus back from the depths of time so her funnels once more blast smoke as she forges through new and wondrous seas.

Sunday Express

Combines a fascinating episode of naval history with [Palin’s] flair for storytelling.

Radio Times

Compelling . . . HMS Erebus embarked on two of the most dramatic Polar expeditions in history . . . Michael’s historical non fiction debut charts both journeys and brings back to life all those who sailed on her.


[Written] with a wry enthusiasm, bolstered by his own experiences as an eminent explorer and film-maker . . . His moving account of the discovery of abandoned items, taken on board as comforts of home by the officers – silver cutlery with their initials indented, scattered on a frozen shore – affected me the most.

Colin Greenwood, Radiohead bassist, Spectator

Palin’s experiences, including a voyage on a Russian ship to the channel where the wreck of Erebus was discovered, give a sense of immediacy and proportion to his narrative . . . Michael Palin has done full justice to [John Franklin] and all these remarkable men. This truly is a marvellous book.

Allan Massie, Scotsman

This lively account reveals much about both exploration and the Royal Navy in the 19th century . . . Palin is a diligent researcher who has trawled the primary sources and, largely in the course of filming his television series Pole to Pole, has visited many of the key sites here.

Sara Wheeler, Observer

Nicholas Crane, current president of the Royal Geographical Society, has described Palin, one of his predecessors, as "the world’s most appealing practitioner of geographical curiosity", and it’s that curiosity which drives his stirring new book . . . His account is written in crisp, unshowy prose.

Four star review, Daily Telegraph

I’ve been mesmerised . . . Palin’s book charts the 1845 voyage of Sir John Franklin, who sought the Northwest Passage with HMS Terror and HMS Erebus.

Scottish Daily Mail

Extraordinary . . . Thoroughly sifts through the many varied and often contradictory theories about what happened to the 129 men aboard Franklin’s two ships.


A great story . . . Told in a very relaxed and sometimes – as you might expect – very funny Palin style.

David Baddiel, Daily Mail

Palin has seized [the story] with relish: the distinctive dry humour familiar to his television audiences finds plenty of opportunities to emerge, and his easy assurance as a writer . . . keeps the pace sprightly.

Times Literary Supplement

Fascinating. Exciting. Authoritative.

All About History

[Palin’s] narrative is driven by a deep sympathy for explorers and adventurers, while also being illuminated by flashes of gentle wit . . . It’s a fascinating story that he brings full-bloodedly to life, stripping away the barnacles of the past to reveal the hidden history of a ship.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Guardian

A delightfully granular description of ship-board life, all told in a brisk, breezy style . . . A very readable and fascinating tale from the early years of polar exploration.

Book of the Month, Geographical

A great read . . . You feel you’re sitting in the pub with Michael Palin himself as he regales you with tales of the mighty seas.

The People’s Friend

The nicest Python with yet another deeply fascinating project

Northern Soul

Everyone’s favourite Python tells the story of Erebus in his cheery prose style

Daily Mirror

Palin, a skilled writer, makes extensive use of diaries, letters and other sources to anchor his story in clear detail in this highly recommended read.

Irish Times

Palin’s personality – that of a rather beloved Uncle who knows something about everything – can’t help shining through, but he never lets it over-shadow the weaving of this, the very definition of a ripping yarn.

Hot Press

These gloomy winter days have put me in the perfect mood for grim tales of desperate men in the frozen north, a craving satisfied in spades by Michael Palin's excellent Erebus . . . The book is a serious bit of history by Palin, backed up by proper research and genuine insight . . . a lovely piece of publishing by Hutchinson.


One of my favourite reads/listens recently was Michael Palin's excellent Erebus. Highly recommended.

Denzil Meyrick, The Herald

A true tale that brings the main characters and events to life with wit, empathy and clarity . . . A beautifully written and researched book from a natural storyteller. I expected something fantastic and I got it.

Jim McKeller, Sorted Magazine

Probably the most enjoyable non-fiction book I have ever read.

Radio Times

Discover more

Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin

Watch Michael Palin discuss his new book, Erebus. HMS Erebus was lost exploring the Arctic in 1848, and rediscovered 166 years later. Erebus: The Story of a Ship traces the remarkable journeys of a ship at the forefront of exploration in the 19th century, one which visited both Antarctica and the Arctic. Drawing on sources ranging from the diaries of the crew to the wreck of the Erebus itself, Michael Palin, the legendary comedian and travel documentarian, reveals the intimate details of life aboard this unique vessel – and how the Erebus met its icy doom. Order your copy of the book here: http://bit.ly/OrderErebus ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Subscribe to the Penguin channel: http://po.st/SubscribePenguinYouTube Follow us here: Twitter | http://www.twitter.com/penguinukbooks Website | http://www.penguin.co.uk Instagram | http://www.instagram.com/penguinukbooks Facebook | http://www.facebook.com/penguinbooks