Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Pidgeon and "Around the World Single-Handed"

Harry Pidgeon was the second person to sail alone around the world. He did this between 1921 and 1925 on a 34 foot engineless sailboat that he built entirely with his own hands. In 1932, he set off again on the same boat (the Islander), completing his second solo trip around the world in 1937.

What strikes one is how much he enjoyed his experiences - both the adventure of ocean crossings and the people he met in the many lands he visited. I recently read a book by Louis Bernacot, the 2nd person to sail around alone by the three capes, as opposed to using the Panama canal (1936-1938). Bernacot's account is one of almost grim determination. He does not linger in many places, seeming focused on the goal more than the experience. His socializing seems limited to other ex-pats and colonial officials. In contrast, as the photos in Around the World Single-Handed show, Harry Pidgeon immersed himself in the cultures he visited, spending a great deal of time exploring ashore. 

Another facet of this book that makes it stand out are the excellent photographs. Harry was a self-taught professional photographer and his pictures have both ethnographic and artistic worth. Harry Pidgeon's voyage was the first solo circumnavigation via the Panama Canal (which had not been finished when Joshua Slocum - the first solo circumnavigator - sailed around South America via the Straits of Magellan).

Here is a link to a brief biography of Harry Pidgeon.

I obtained a first edition of this book and scanned it with the intention of producing my first e-book. It took me about 6 elapsed months (maybe 100 hours total) to do this work, which involved converting the images to text using an optical character recognition program, editing the text for both conversion mistakes and formatting errors, editing and reformatting the images from high resolution scans, and assembling into various e-book formats. The work is in the public domain to the best of my knowledge (Dover did a reprint of the original in 1989), so please feel free to download a copy for reading on your ebook reader or computer (see the side bar to the right of this blog). I have tested the e-Pub format on a Kobo touch and all formats on the Calibre e-Book reader Windows application.