Cover Image: Graveyard of the Pacific

Graveyard of the Pacific

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for an eARC of Graveyard of the Pacific by Randall Sullivan.

The title to the actual contents of the book is pretty misleading as I was expecting stories of shipwrecks and how sailors adapted to life while on the Pacific Ocean. Instead, I got a story of shipwrecks at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and more of a journey of two men in kayaks trying to navigate. It was honestly pretty disappointing as it wasn't what I really wanted from this book.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press for an advance copy of nautical history on a troubled area for ships and crew, and the men that are both drawn to the danger and looking for meaning and understanding in the troubled seas of their own psyches.

Even in the 21st century taking to the seas is as dangerous for people as it was for mariners who travelled the seaways throughout time. Sure there are helicopters, GPS trackers to find lifeboats, and find where a lost sailor might have washed up. However the sea is a harsh landscape, plays no favorites and even the largest ship or smallest raft can run into trouble, a rogue wave, a sudden storm, a mistake that made sense at the time. Libraries are filled with books about rough passages, or ships that set out without reaching their destination, or finding a port at the bottom of the sea. A lot of dangers are known, Capes not to sail near, places that the water is too much for even the wisest of sailors. One of the dangers is the Columbia River Bar, nicknames the Graveyard of the Pacific. A place where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River, creating a patch of rough water that has been responsible for many lost craft and crew. A place that two men plan to sail across one day in July, to prove something to themselves that even they aren't sure of.. Graveyard of the Pacific: Shipwreck and Survival on America’s Deadliest Waterway by journalist and writer Randall Sullivan is a history of an area in the ocean, the men who sailed and died on it, and the legacy of fathers have on their sons, and the call of the sea.

Randall Sullivan has a plan. Even though he is close to seventy, Sullivan is still in good shape, and thinks of a great adventure for himself and his Roy, a lawyer who shares many of the same traits, and family upbringing as Sullivan. The two man will cross the Columbia River Bar, a dangerous stretch of water that has sunk many a ship, on a sail Kayak a Hobie Adventure Island trimaran. Most of the people Sullivan speaks to, Coast Guard rescue men, fishermen, their family think they are crazy, that the area is called the Graveyard of the Pacific for a reason. Yes under certain conditions, weather, temperature, current, water levels, it could be possible. But still dangerous, and foolish. As Sullivan prepares he reads and learns much about the area. The indigenous people who called the area home, the many ships that attempted to cross the area, the men who died. And why people try to do these things. As Sullivan shares what he learns about the Columbia River Bar, Sullivan shares about his life, his father a Merchant Marine with very quick hands, and the things that still effect him from his childhood.

Not the book that I expected, but a book I far more enjoyed. With the title I was expecting stories about boats sinking and tales about storms, and rough crossing. What Sullivan has done has written a book that looks at both his and Roy's childhood, with fathers who were terrible, and how that might have made them the men they are. However the book is also about the sea. What draws people to risk their lives on the ocean. Did these sailors ever find what the were looking for. In risking their lives will Sulllivan and his friend feel different, or are they so damaged by their legacy of violence. The writing is very good, informational on the Bar and the ships that sailed it, and yet almost poetic in what Sullivan has seen and been effected by. The sailing scenes are thrilling, the way the two men bicker is funny. And at the end there is a lot to contemplate.

A book that brings on in with a strong title, and yet asks a lot of questions, about masculinity, the sea, friendship, being a parent, and living with abuse. Not what I expected, but one that I enjoyed and made me feel emotions I did not expect.

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A good book, but not what I was expecting. The title led me to believe it would be stories of shipwrecks and disasters on the Pacific coast. While the book did contain some stories, more than half of the book dealt with two individuals and their quest to cross the dangerous point as well as their life story. While okay, I wish that the novel had stuck to maritime disasters instead.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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At first glance, one would think that this is about the Pacific in general and as I am on a Pearl Harbour-related reading kick, I had hoped that that would be part of the book. But it is not, it is specifically about Oregon's Columbia River which flows into the Pacific Ocean and forms the Columbia River Bar and has wrecked over 2000 ships.

My assumption was wrong but I still enjoyed the book as I am a lover of history and its interesting stories. Well crafted and presented, this is a great book for the lover of ships, wrecks, history and nonfiction books. It is a short book (less than 300 pages) so it would not be too daunting for people who do not read a lot or all the time: I find that big books kind of freak out some readers who don't want a book that can double as a door stop.

HIghly recommended.

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