Tim Severin and his amazing journeys

About 2 years ago I found my new hero: Tim Severin

Tim Severin and Medea

Tim Severin and Medea in Colchis, hailed as a king after succeeding his Quest for the Golden Fleece

How did that come? As preparation of my different sailing journeys I always like to research the region of the sail trip. So when we were planning to sail cross the Black Sea in 2007, I immediately dived into the deep holes of the Internet, did research on countries like the Crimea, Turkey, Bulgaria and Georgia. I read  about everything related to the myths and the epic stories of the Amazons, the Scythians and other figures greater then life.

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And somewhere, I can’t remember exactly where anymore, in a very small footnote some crazy guy was mentioned who made a trip around 1985 in this area. So I Googled a little bit around and found out that he was called Tim Severin and he made a trip similar of that of Jason and the Argonauts some 3,500 years before and bought his books on eBay.

Jason and the Argonauts

Just to recall some history, Jason was sent to fetch the Golden Fleece by King Pelias, who thought of Jason as the man that would deny him / take his kingdom (although Jason was off course the rightfull owner of that throne). So there Jason went, with a group of 50 heroes known as the Argonauts, including Heracles, in a ship called Argo after the Golden Fleece.

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Tim Severin, an historic explorer / traveller, was inspired by this story and he did want to found out if this story would be myth or was it maybe an epic story with true historic events. The common opinion during the 1980’s was that these stories were just myths. I found his book “The Jason Voyage, the Quest for the Golden Fleece” about this expedition on eBay. It tells mainly two stories. First the one of Jason and the Argonauts and second the story of his expedition, to build a similar boat and to go to Georgia and find the Golden Fleece.
[xmlgm {http://www.ancientcoasts.com/wp-content/KML/The_Jason_Voyage-simple.kml} maptype=G_PHYSICAL_MAP;width=500;height=450;zoom=5;maptypecontrol=hide;align=center;scrollwheelzoom=disabled;continouszoom=disabled;]The book tells first of the mythological trip of Jason and the Argonauts and how he did get hold to the Golden Fleece (and with this the beautifull Medea, daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis). Then follows the start of the journey of Tim Severin with  building a replica of a bronze age galley. He eventually finds a Greek shipbuilder called Vasilis Delimitros at Spetses and ordered a ship similar to the one of Jason. You can imagine that such a ship wasn’t built for around 1,500 years, so there are some knowledge gaps. First thing they had to find out was what xould be possible given the technology and the materials available that time. This made the whole endeavour already meaningfull as they discovered valuabe insights about the building and usage of ancient ships. When the ship was built, before leaving, a lot traditions off course. It was blessed by a Greek orthodox priest and to please the ancient Greek gods a gift of wines is needed for the request of fair winds and calm seas. then they could leave for Colchis currently known as Georgia.

The Argo of Tim Severin rowing the Bosporus upstream

The Argo rowing up the Bosporus taking the counterstream of around 5 knots

The biggest challenge would be rowing the Bosporus as there is a strong counter stream of 4-6 knots. This stream is mainly the reason the story of Jason and the Argonauts was always been put aside as being a myth. Nobody believed it to be possible that manpower ould to row up the Bosporus. Tim Severin proved however that it is possible. This finding combined with a lot of other facts and insights found during this journey, made it a paradigm shift in historic research and above all and amazing book to read.

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After the Jason Voyage Tim Severin made another journey with ship Argo. This trip is the subject of “The Ulysses Voyage, Sea Search for the Odyssea” where he follows the trails of Ulysses. This book I am curently reading as inspiration for my coming voyage. Here he follows the route Ulysses could have sailed when leaving Troy (more on Troy will follow later when introducing the ancient babe Helen or Helena for whom the Mother of all Ancient Battles was started).

Some Trivia

The first journey of Tim Severin was the Brendan Voyage, set out to test the plausibility of the legend of St. Brendan’s voyage from Ireland to Newfoundland around 800 AD. The original footage of this trip has been found again after being lost for 30 years, now they are revising it in order to be presented in 2010. More here…

The movie Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

The movie Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Ray Harryhausen’s landmark film Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is based on the herefore mentioned mythical hero Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Directed by Don Chaffey with music by Bernard Herrmann. The film’s numerous Dynamation animated monsters- Harpies, the bronze giant Talos and the Hydra is an unparalleled achievement without use of computer graphics. Jason’s spectacular battle with the skeletons is regarded as one of the greatest special effects in motion pictures. Harryhausen took four months to finish the three minute scene. Ray Harryhausen’s elaborate special effects gave the film the look of a big budget production turning Jason and the Argonauts into a box-office hit and a memorable classic.

And introducing now the heroes of our time: The Toronto Argonauts

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And now the (obligatory) cliffhanger: I will tell more about the quest of Jason some time, because – according to Herodotus – all the troubles between the East and the West started then (so don’t blame George Bush or Bin Laden). And also something about Xenophon, but that has another reason…

One more last thing: why not visit Tim Severins website?

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