SEVENTH JOURNEY
: LATEST REVIEWS
 

I discovered Seventh Journey in a box of books, covered in dust, half way across the Gobi Desert. We were travelling by 4WD from Melbourne to London via Mongolia. It was autumn. Camels drifted past as freezing winds swirled down from snow-capped mountains, billowing our exposed tent. The book was a perfect choice for such a wild place.

Of all the incredible survival situations the author encountered, Desperation Island was the highlight. I finished Seventh Journey before we left Mongolia for Kazakhstan, understanding the difference between what really matters and what doesn’t, and realizing that on my next trip, I wanted to explore some of the world’s more challenging places.

Seventh Journey is a really inspiring book and I recommend it to anyone interested in people and adventure.

 

 

Seventh Journey is a brilliant and beautifully written testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. For anyone planning to lead a course through the uncharted landscape of rapidly changing and uncertain futures on our fragile planet, it serves as a valuable companion. Earl de Blonville has crafted a multi-layered and rare glimpse into the extraordinary weight of responsibility he shouldered, while offering self-critical, and at times hilarious, reflections on his own leadership.

It is a modern Odyssey for the 21st century, an inspiring true story with the mythical power of an archetypal "hero's journey." With a global epidemic of youth anxiety, depression and suicide, Earl is an inspiring role model for young men and one that is desperately needed today. Seventh Journey should be required reading on the new Australian National High School Curriculum and in youth detention facilities, globally.

 

 

Seventh Journey is, in a word, literally unputdownable! The author disarms us with his self-deprecatory style, the lightness of the atmosphere, the ready admission of mistakes and even a questioning of his own capacity to bring it all off! The book is a rollicking adventure, the descriptions of nature in all her beauty and ferocity are entirely compelling, the human side of the drama emerges with deep insights into the complexity and unpredictability of reactions and relationships.

 

 

Seventh Journey brought back very pleasant memories from 25 years ago when, due to equipment failure on its journey to Greenland, the Eleanor Rymill sought repairs in Sligo, Ireland, where my family and I had the pleasure of going aboard to meet Earl and his crew.

Throughout the expedition, danger was ever present. The crew faced some appalling weather conditions, as well as cramped living quarters, so it was no surprise that tensions boiled over on a number of occasions. It would have been miraculous if it had happened otherwise. I'm sure that without Earl's doggedness and leadership, the expedition would have been aborted.

Seventh Journey is a page-turner for all readers, young or old - I read it in two sittings. It is in every sense a boy's own adventure story except that in this case it is about real people.

 

 

There is a vast contrast between the hardships of polar travel and the stories that people tell afterwards. I recall very well the stark difference between the harsh reality of a long overland traverse of Antarctica and the post-hoc heroic rationalisations of some of my expedition members.

Earl de Blonville's Seventh Journey has convincingly captured the reality of expedition life. He is refreshingly honest and direct, which is conveyed well early in the book when he is struggling to get funding for the expedition "…my backers will probably have me publically flogged for being such a naïve and trusting idiot. Frankly, I wouldn't blame them."

The book also provides some fascinating insights into the personality of someone who would willingly embrace danger and great hardship. Described as pig-headed and an unrelenting bastard, de Blonville is inclined to agree with much of the description. "I become a human bulldozer, just going and going, determined to get there, whatever the cost. And there always is a cost."

Seventh Journey is a great read and fully captures reality of leadership and adventure.

 

 

While you are sea kayaking in Australia you are bound to hear stories of the first kayak trip to Greenland. As the trip is talked about and you think the stories are getting more and more fantastic, read the book and you'll find that it actually happened. Getting to an adventure is underrated, but getting back can kill you.

 

 

I started reading Seventh Journey expecting to find instructional advice on leadership, what I found was an exciting journey and a story I couldn't put down. It was a great read! The insights into what makes people tick was thought provoking for me, the abilities to push beyond what seems possible was inspiring. I'm glad I wasn't on Desperation Island!

 

 

If there was a golden age of Australian adventuring, it was the late 20th century. From the 60s to the 90s there was a palpable spirit of possibility that had a certain alchemy with our affinity for wilderness and an almost nation-defining pride in the Big Crazy Undertaking. Earl de Blonville was a part of this mix, from the time of his solo sea kayak baptism at the age of 11 through a paddling circumnavigation of Tasmania that no one thought possible.

Fast forward past countless other Big Adventurous Ideas, to the primary subject of this tome, Earl's seventh major kayak expedition tracking a 1000km, 1930s Arctic route of British Arctic explorer Gino Watkins who disappeared paddling in Greenland (his kayak was found floating full of water, his body never found). Gino was Earl's inspiration and the homage heart of this 1986 expedition. Yet for the reader, Gino is just the spark.

It's inspired writing and willingness to go into dark, ego-busting territory that has us gripped, as Earl's expedition goes from ambitious to haphazard to downright foolhardy. It provides fertile environment for Earl to peer into the mirror and contemplate – what makes an adventurer? What makes a leader (or undoes one)? What maketh the man? This is exploration of the explorer as much as of the expedition.

 

 

Australia's reputation for Antarctic exploration and research is well known. Not so well-known is the country's foray into the Arctic that Earl de Blonville describes in this book. The story is told with a refreshing honesty that obliges readers to consider what they themselves might have done in the challenging circumstances. It sanitises neither the interpersonal tensions that arose between personnel, nor the conflicts between individual ambitions and group commitment. It raises the moral and practical responsibility of the designated leader for all contingencies.

For the first time, the story also produced a plausible explanation from the recollections of local Inuit people for Watkins' demise. To say more would steal the thunder of a harrowing adventure, full of twists and turns, only a few of which, with 20/20 hindsight, might have been avoided.

For my part, the book made me reflect on the importance of ability, stability, and compatibility in the selection of personnel, and of the need for leaders to pay as much attention to developing a workable pattern of leadership to suit their group, as to verifying the knowledge and prowess in other respects claimed by individual members. On many levels the book and its author are to be admired.

 

 

Seventh Journey provided a lot of management material to reflect on. What sets it apart from most leadership books is its frankness in describing both successes and failures. I think that Seventh Journey makes valuable reading for today's business readers.

 

 

Book Review
WILD Magazine 117
May-June 2010

In 1986 Earl de Blonville led a disparate crew of young adventurers to the frozen East Greenland coast. Their mission was to recreate and film Arctic explorer Gino Watkins' seventh journey by open boat and kayak in 1931.

This is a disarmingly frank account of the personalities that battle, not only the extreme landscape, but each other as they overcome wild storms, mechanical failure and near deadly dunkings as the winter freeze descends.

The writing soars when the author describes scenes of beauty including the northern lights and the iceberg-ridden coastline that the expedition must battle through.

There are moments of high drama, such as when the team is split during a violent pitoraq (Arctic wind that reaches speeds of up to 140 knots), and moments of bizarre group dynamics, such as when the leader is physically assaulted by another team member.

A fascinating insight into ambition, courage and perseverance against the odds.

 

 

Earl de Blonville is a great, but unsung, Australian hero, courageous, strong, confident, and with outstanding leadership qualifications. Seventh Journey is a powerful account of an expedition that he led to East Greenland in 1986.

Seventh Journey is a powerful story of privation, courage, obstinacy and tenacity, full of sharp insights, vividly written, well illustrated with useful maps - an unvarnished record of a major achievement. The expedition took place 23 years ago, but the story, with its freshness and immediacy, is timeless, demonstrating what charismatic leadership can achieve, against all odds.

 

 

"When I first sat down with Seventh Journey I expected to read a few chapters a day. Just 36 hours after opening it, I closed the last page at midnight and collapsed into bed. The action is utterly engrossing. However, with each harrowing tale I expected to learn how leadership saved the day and how the lesson could be applied to my own situation. When the lesson didn’t appear I was frustrated. I pushed on – increasingly impatiently – waiting for the infallible secrets of leadership to be revealed; for the universal aphorism, the checklist of do’s and don’ts, the user’s manual to leadership.

But that lesson never came. It was not until I finished the final chapter that I understood the book's real point: that leadership cannot be taught, no leader is infallible and there is no single recipe for success. The important thing is that whatever the circumstance, we must continue to lead, to make decisions, to not sit still and simply wait for the tide to take our kayaks. On reflection I was also relieved; relieved in the knowledge that even the greatest leaders are not superhuman but sometimes make the wrong call and suffer guilt, indecision and cowardice. I can now approach my own life with renewed confidence. It has been an extraordinary 36 hours."