Creating History Through Water

Paddle Steamer

Adventurers have always chosen the world’s waterways to explore the unknown.

Whether it’s on the rivers of Burma or the high seas of the Antarctic, the quest for knowledge has led to some great discoveries.

Caithness based Whittles Publishing specialises in unusual books for enthusiasts and latest releases include “The Fabulous Flotilla” by Paul Strachan and “The Magnetism of Antarctica” written by John Knight.

Strachan’s family involvement with Glasgow shipbuilding has taken him around the world as he seeks new stories. In 1981, he worked for a Scottish company building power stations in Burma in 1981 and in 1995, he revived the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company and restored an original Clyde built steamer.

The Fabulous Flotilla book cover

His latest book “The Fabulous Flotilla” is based on his work in Burma and tells the story of the entirely Scottish Irrawaddy firm and how there were 1,200 ships which carried the entire population of Burma on its river network, without loss of life.

The paddle steamers were amongst the largest in the world, beautifully and cleverly designed and the book centres on tales of the colourful characters who worked on the boats, which were modelled on riverside versions of ocean liners, with plush cabins, restaurants, shops and even post offices on board.

The largest ships carried 5,000 passengers and the book also takes the reader on a 1,000 journey upriver in Burma, pointing out Scottish connections on the way.

A fascinating book which marks an era in Burma’s history and past Scottish endeavour.

Author John Knight uses his expertise to guide the reader through the under documented Ross Expedition of 1839 to 1843 in “The Magnetism of Antarctica”.

A pivotal moment in the annals of polar exploration, it was the first time in nearly 70 years since Captain James Cook had circumnavigated Antarctica, that a royal naval voyage of discovery had ventured so far South.

The Magnetism of Antarctica book cover

Setting a new furthest south record, it beat the one set by James Weddell in a whaling ship in 1823.

Sailing from Greenwich in 1839, the expedition made up of two wooden sailing ships, commanded by Captain James Clark Ross and Commander Francis Crozier, the ships were manned by naval personnel and 64 men and officers, with the primary task of a scientific nature to study the Earth’s magnetic field and build up a greater understanding of the effects of magnetism on compasses and their use in navigating the world’s oceans.

Exotic places visited included Maderia, St Helena, Cape Town and the Falkland Islands. But the pinnacle was the discovery of the Ross Sea and the mighty volcanoes of Erebus and Terror, places only visited again 60 years later by the great explorers Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen.

For more information and to purchase these two books, please visit:

The Fabulous Flotilla, RRP: £18.99 – ISBN: 9781849955324

The Magnetism of Antarctica, RRP: £18.99 – ISBN: 9781849955010

Author Bio:

Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.

Cover images courtesy of Whittles Publishing and top image by mypicturecaptures from Pixabay

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