BAR 34:04, Jul/Aug 2008
Return of the Ancient Mariner
Writing almost 200 years after the events in question, Herodotus records in The Histories the Phoenicians’ claim to have sailed into dangerous, uncharted waters and circumnavigated Africa. It was either a fantastic—almost inconceivable—achievement or a wild hoax. Herodotus himself doubted the claim.
Enter Philip Beale. The former British naval officer and adventurer is reopening this ancient question. He intends to vindicate the Phoenicians’ claim—and he plans to do it in dramatic fashion: Having spent months overseeing the construction of an exact replica of a seventh-century B.C. Phoenician ship, Beale will skipper a crew of 20 on a ten-month odyssey around Africa.
The Phoenician Ship Expedition will depart from Arwad, Syria (i.e., ancient Phoenicia), in August 2008 and head south. After negotiating the dangers of the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, a critical point in the expedition, the voyage will continue up the west coast of Africa, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to return back to Syria in June 2009—ten months later and 17,000 miles wiser.