ADRIFT: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan
Kirkus Star

ADRIFT: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea

Email this review


A riveting tale of survival by a young man who drifted on the South Atlantic for two and one-half months in a tiny inflatable raft after his sailboat was destroyed by a whale. First of all, it should be said that for aficionados of sailing literature, Callahan's story is to William F. Buckley's Atlantic High as the Great Chicago Fire is to cuddling up in front of a cozy hearth. The reader can almost feel the constant poking of dorados against Callahan's rump and head, break out in goosebumps each time Callahan spies a shark's fin nearing, or almost retch at the taste of dorados' eyeballs and innards, practically his only source of nourishment during the ordeal. What makes the story so effective is that Callahan is, besides being an adept sailor, a fine writer, who can find universals in his situation where others might be paralyzed with fear. He is able to explain the intricacies of seamanship and survival with such confidence that the reader feels as if he could perform in the same brave way. Callahan's story takes the form of a diary narrative, beginning with the wreck of his vessel some 450 miles north of the Cape Verde Islands and ending 1800 miles later, when some fishermen found him just off the Guadeloupe coast. In all this time and mileage, he spotted only seven ships off in the distance and saw very few planes. Men have survived longer at sea in inflatable rafts--the Bailey family spent 119 days on the Pacific. But no one man has ever survived more than one month alone in similar conditions before Callahan. The author is repetitive about some of his experiences (the descriptions of his clubbing dorados and carving them up seem to be interminable). Also, one doesn't quite get the fearful ambiance of the endless ocean, say, by night. But this tale still grips the reader, capturing the intensity and terrifying awesomeness of the situation. There have been many tales of survival, but Adrift is twenty thousand leagues over the rest.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 1615582916
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin