Cannibal Adventure

Bookshelf: Cannibal Adventure

Cannibal Adventure – Willard Price

Cannibal Adventure
Cannibal Adventure

Willard Price is an adventure novelist who wrote a series of children’s books about the Hunt brothers, Hal and Roger, and their travels to various exotic destinations collecting animals for sale to zoos, circuses and the like. His titles include Tiger Adventure, Lion Adventure, African Adventure and Gorilla Adventure.

The books were published between 1960 and 1980, and are thus very dated (and mysogynistic, and racist, and parochial).  Despite this, I read the series over and over as a child, repeatedly taking the books out of the Vredehoek library.

I don’t think I was particularly aware that his generalisations about women, African tribesmen, and the role of men in society were possibly offensive and narrow-minded. What was wonderful to me were the descriptions of the various animals the boys encountered, the idea that a 14- and 19-year old could capture a tiger (or silverback gorilla) alive, and the descriptions of exotic destinations.

I’m re-reading the series now (a fit of nostalgia overcame me when my sister and her husband announced that they are expecting a baby boy in March 2011… I immediately started thinking about the books I would read to him) and loving it.

Cannibal Adventure was published in 1972, which is around the time when the design of the BCD was being fine-tuned, but I don’t think they were yet in common use. It isn’t strictly about diving – it’s more about the boys’ interactions with a tribe on Papua New Guinea, and their efforts to capture local wildlife for their father to sell to zoos. However, they do go scuba diving in order to capture a family of dugongs (manatees).

I have to share this passage – there is so much to love in here!

Donning their scuba gear, which consisted of tanks, masks, weighted belts and flippers, the boys sank into the warm waters of the Arafura Sea….

The boys went back to the depths. This time they descended into a gorge two hundred feet deep. It took some stiff swimming to get to the bottom against the pressure of the water and when they got there Roger was tired out. The over-exertion gave him an experience he would never forget.

He was overcome by nitrogen narcosis. It is also called rapture of the deeps.

Just a hunch, but I don’t think Mr Price ever dived himself. There’s almost NOTHING that is positively buoyant at 67 metres…

There’s also no mention of how long it took to ascend, whether they did any kind of decompression stops, and how quickly they must have used up their gas at that depth. To give Mr Price some credit, a lot of the safety precautions we take now are fairly recent inventions… Jacques Cousteau and his team did some amazing cowboy stunts in the 1940’s and 1950’s with the new aqualung!

If you want a copy of this masterpiece (and it’s highly entertaining, I promise!) you can get it here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here. I will review two of Price’s other books, Underwater Adventure and Diving Adventure, in forthcoming Bookshelf posts.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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