American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

DARING THE SEA: THE TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST MEN TO ROW ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN (1998). Written by David W. Shaw (1961-?), Daring the Sea is the true story of George Harbo (18641908) and Frank Samuelsen (1870-1946), two Norwegian immigrants who in 1896 successfully rowed from New York City to La Havre, France. The pair left Manhattan on 6 June 1896 and arrived in La Havre two months later, having endured exhaustion, starvation, near collision with steamships, and near drowning when a monstrous wave capsized their eighteen-foot boat, the Fox, in midocean. Against all odds, the pair persevered and survived, expecting that their daring feat would bring them fame and wealth on the lecture circuit. Though they set the record for being the first men to row across the Atlantic nonstop, they failed to gain much public acclaim, and the truth of their story has become obscured by legend and supposition.

Their crossing has attained nearly mythic proportions over the last 100 years; they were rumored, for example, to have been offered a $10,000 prize on completion of their venture. Shaw effectively replaces such rumors with the facts of the voyage, having gained access to descendants, Harbo’s personal log, and a later history that Harbo dictated. The contemporary “Ballad of Harbo and Samuelsen” (1985), written by Jerry Bryant, has been sung in folk and sea music* circles for years. Daring the Sea is the first published work about this legendary voyage.

Glenn Grasso