Abacus (UK) May 2003, £7.99 ISBN 0-349-11454-4
Free Press (US) June 2003, $13, ISBN 0743243099
On a fateful South American bus trip, journalist Nick Thorpe overheard an improbable plan: to sail 2,500 miles to Easter Island on a boat made of reeds. Intrigued by this modern-day Kon-Tiki, he blagged his way on board only to find himself with nagging questions. Why did the crew include a tree surgeon, a jewellery salesman and a duck? What had happened to the navigator? Did anybody actually know how to sail? And, most importantly, where was the life raft?
Eight Men and a Duck charts this most eccentric of Pacific voyages as it lurched between high drama and high farce: the slow-motion launch that took five days to complete; the bungled phone call that triggered a Naval rescue alert; and the constant race against the inexorable sinking of the soggy hull.
Yet despite the menace of storms and sharks and fast-moving freighters, a singular lack of sailing qualification, and a rival explorer dogging the adventure at every turn, the crew of the Viracocha lived to tell their extraordinary tale right through to its wickedly unexpected conclusion. Nick Thorpe’s account is in turn funny, touching and thrilling – a story of friendship, fate, and the unfeasible lengths we will go for adventure.