Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark. Ararat With Rick Antonson

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By Jo Frances Penn. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

The word Ararat brings to mind an adventure into myth and history and in this episode, I talk to Rick Antonson about his journey to the fabled resting place of Noah’s Ark, as well as some of the research into Biblical history and ancient myths of the flood.

My ARKANE thrillers center around Biblical archaeology, history, and myth, so this was a particularly exciting interview for me!

Rick Antonson is an author, professional speaker, and world traveler. Today, we’re talking about his book, Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond.

Show notes

  • The history, mystery, and myth surrounding Ararat and Noah’s Ark
  • Versions of the flood story
  • The complications of climbing Mt. Ararat
  • The lure of (slightly) dangerous travel
  • What travel might look like in the future
  • Recommended books

You can find Rick Antonson at RickAntonson.com.

Transcript of the interview

Jo Frances: Rick Antonson is an author, professional speaker, and world traveler. Today, we’re talking about his book, Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond. Welcome to the show, Rick.

Rick: Thank you for having me.

Jo Frances: I’m so excited. I was just saying before we started recording, this is just catnip to me. I just love stuff about Noah’s Ark and Ararat. So, I want to ask you, so why choose Ararat?

There are so many biblical archeology sites around the world. What drew you to this adventure?

Rick: Each trip it seems has its own little curious motivation, but I find that there are levels of them that continue to overlap. So part of it was as a youngster, four, five, nine years old, whatever, I first encountered the story of Noah’s Ark and Mount Ararat.

Secondly, there was a book on our shelves. Me and my brother, older brother by a year, shared a bedroom and we shared a bookshelf, and one of the books there was about a fellow who in the early ’50s, a Frenchman had gone to Mount Ararat, actually, seeking to find Noah’s Ark, believing as he did as a person of faith, that it actually had landed there.

And those two things along with…as time went on and I was older wanting to go, and be places that were uncommon, that the phrase gets used, off the beaten path, but it really was to try and do something that maybe friends, and family, and others weren’t doing. And one day I was looking at a map and across my mind came Mount Ararat.

Khor Virap, an Armenian monastery located in the Ararat plain. Photo licensed from BigStockPhoto

Jo Frances: It just has a romance about it, really. Because you’re in Canada. And I’m in Europe and, you know I’ve traveled in the Middle East. Do you think there is something quite different when you’re from North America, Canada to come to the Middle East?

Rick: Well, first of all, the last couple of years, my wife, Janice and I were living in Europe because of my wife’s job. And then before that, for five years, she was in Australia and I was back and forth, and then the last couple of years living there.

So I probably bring a different perspective, but the further away you are from any destination, the more romantic, perhaps forbidding, foreboding a place could be. And the Middle East is so characterized by turmoil that to actually plan on traveling there has to put safety at the front of your mind and also just loads your planning table with history, almost overwhelming history.

Again, you know, layers of it that one wants to sift through before they go. But you also don’t want to take away that traveler’s awe by being too prepared.

Jo Frances: Absolutely. And you mentioned that overwhelming layers of history, which is certainly true.

What is history and what is myth when it comes to Ararat and the flood?

Rick: The ‘Reader’s Digest,’ Peter Rabbit short version is that great flood stories appear throughout the world, all over the planet. There have been perhaps localized floods but they were great floods to the people involved.

So the factual part is that if a flood happened in 5,000 BC almost anywhere in the world, if you had never traveled more than 20 miles from Bath in any direction and you didn’t know anyone else who had, and that part of the world is under flood, then to your knowledge, the world itself has flooded. So these localized floods took on a pan planet storyline. Those are the facts we know.

Another fact we know is that when the last ice age was winding down, that the world’s oceans and seas all over the planet rose by 300 meters. But that’s huge. And I’m sorry, I should say that other way, 300 feet. As they rose, so did the pressure on land bridges or places blocking the water and they spilled over into other areas, again, causing Niagara Falls-like proportions of flooding. So those are things we know and are facts.

You then take the story of a survivor of any of those floods, let it go through person to person, oral storytelling for 2,000 years before anybody writes it down, it’s bound to get a little distorted. But the survivors have the best stories. Some of those flood survivors’ stories led to literally a raft, if you’ll allow me that analogy, a raft of different stories about what we would today call the Noah’s Ark story.

Jo Frances: And it’s interesting because as storytelling people, we have to turn these great disasters into some kind of meaning.

As you mentioned, the flood stories generally do talk about some type of God, don’t they?

Rick: Right. So, the God in part comes because that was the belief about what controlled the weather. So if the weather goes really, really bad and somebody needs to be blamed or it’s good and somebody needs to be thanked, that brings about the religious overtone. But the gods were different and in some cases plentiful. There would be more than one deity a time.

But also the stories as they emerged about the flood they would happen in different times. So, the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ which is the first written down book, if you will, predecessor to your own writing, but clay tablets, include the story of a flood, an angry or disappointed God, people feeling that they were being put upon. And then there is a survivor, and the survivor has sort of the moral, morale of the tale.

So, then years later, hundreds of years later the Babylonian flood story becomes and gets written down, some of it oral. And then when the Jewish people were banned from their homeland for what was, what, 60 years or so, they perhaps imported that story, brought it back, it gets written down.

Eventually, Noah is the hero of this story. It becomes the Torah, the Old Testament, and the Christian Bible, yet in the Koran in 680, a little over 680, there is a flood story and the hero is Nuh. So think of this as capital N-U-H in a circumplex over the U. So those various versions of the story are what in a popular or contemporary society is the story of Noah’s Ark.

Jo Frances: It’s just incredible that these things are thousands of years old and yet pretty much every school kid would know about these stories.

I want to ask you about the ark itself because, again, talking about children’s books, in my head, the children’s book as you know, the sort of the straight sides and the animals going in two by two, and the song, and so everyone’s got an image of an ark in their head I think or you see kids’ toys made out of wood and things.

But there is actually some really interesting research that you mentioned in the book.

What about the ark itself?

Rick: You are absolutely right. If you stopped the next 30 people on the street, if you went out for a walk, social distancing, kept them in, you just said the phrase two by two, everybody would say Noah’s Ark. Like, it’s not maybe 30% or 80%, it would be 100% of people would make that association.

The ark in the image you just described is how artists began to portray it over the years. And it took on a fun caricature and often it would have the animals and they’ll mate there. So there’d be the giraffe, there’d be the elephants, whatever. That was sort of the pictorial rendition that became popularized.

But in other ancient tablets and one found by an individual, a scholar associated with the British Museum, actually predates the biblical records, written down records, and has a God saying, ‘Gather some of the food sources, and some of the animals, and your family, and get ready to go away because there’s going to be a flood.’ But that description of how to build the ark is a round ark, not the type you described or what anybody would maybe sketch. It was a round one.

Based on small boats of the time that were circular and were very common in the Persian area, so the probability of someone reading this and saying, ‘Oh yes, I get that you can do that,’ is fascinating.

There was actually a BBC story where they used that information and built a third of the full size, but they built on what that architectural direction would lead you to do. And it was a floatable raft. So what the ark may look like could be many, many, many different things depending on the source of the story.

It’s fair to say that versions of the boats we think about as perhaps legend and having myth around them, versions of those could actually have been constructed for whatever purpose.

Jo Frances: I watched that and this obscure academic with this big beard, of Irving Finkel, and just this lovely boat that they made. I think they made it in Kerala in South India.

Rick: They did.

Jo Frances: It was cheaper to build the materials. And it’s a classic experiment. But as you said, they do float it.

It doesn’t look to me like it would survive what we think of as the flood in our heads, but it was certainly really fascinating.

Rick: All of a sudden, it becomes not a probability but a possibility. I think the other context that’s important is that around the time all of this was beginning to come together in terms of the story, and some of the floods, and there’s a specific one that I write about in Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark, and that’s what the Basra Strait, along around the same time, peoples in different parts of the world and certainly there say around the Black Sea in their social setup, they were becoming less nomadic, some of them, and beginning to harvest crops annually, beginning to put down the roots of sort of steady homes and maybe clusters of them, so the very earliest indications of a village setting.

They were on the shores of big water sources, particularly the lakes, so fishing and whatever. If there was a flood, then those who were most able to survive would be those who had the family boat, who perhaps were the fishers and they would, of course, gather family, whatever sort of livestock they may have had tethered to posts in their yards, and they would have gathered some of their food.

So that the story of a family escaping ending up hundreds of miles blown by wind, and rising waters, and telling their story of survival is very probable. Does that get exaggerated? Does it become that there were groups of them? Was there one great, big ship? Of course, that’s how storytelling can quite easily evolve and where fiction crosses over into the nonfiction that could well be based on some fact.

Jo Frances: That’s what I really love about your book is that you’ve got these deep historical details and then also it is a travel story of your own trip.

But, of course, you can’t just hike up Ararat. You can’t just go, ‘Well, I’m just going to walk it up off it today.’

If people don’t know, where is it in terms of surrounding countries that make it hard to get to and what were some of the obstacles you had to overcome?

Rick: Two parts to the answer. One is what it was like for me and the other is what it would be like today.

When I did this some years ago, the mountain is stationary. It’s in Eastern Turkey and its stationaryism has been distorted over time because for a while, it was part of Armenia. And Armenians see this as their signature of nationhood. You can see it when you’re in Yerevan. It’s right there.

But the Russian bear had its arms wrapped around when it controlled Armenia, there are some that say, if the Kurdish people ever had their homeland, it should include Mount Ararat. But today, it is part of Turkey. It is in Eastern Turkey and one needs a permit to climb on up, which can take a couple of months.

For example, when I was on the mountain, we climbed closely with a group of Armenians and they have a fence between Armenia and the mountains. So they have to come through Georgia, down. It’s a long way for them to get there. And it’s more costly for them simply because they are Armenians, and the Armenians and Turkish people have anxiety, which is rooted in much, much history.

So it was a bit complicated and one needed the patience, and a tour operator could help. But in 2014, because of the Kurdish PKK and the Turks having their battles, and insurgents and so forth, access to Mount Ararat was banned. And for five years, you were not allowed to go on the mountain. So you couldn’t have replicated my trip.

As of this time last year, spring of 2019, those restrictions have been eased a bit and there are now, again, some tour operators who can facilitate the permission certificate and so forth. And, of course, you need a professional guide if you’re going to do as I did.

I joined a group of five of us and a guide with the intention of summiting Mount Ararat, which is a 17,000-foot mountain. If you want to do that, you can’t just end up on the mountain. You have to be absolutely prepared. It’s not a technical mountain climb, but it’s a demanding one with some very sheer sides, which one could easily fall over.

Jo Frances: Which is just incredible really because as you say, it’s difficult politically, it’s difficult to physically get there and then get the permits. But then also, as you described it, it was a mountain climb.

Did you do specific training for the physical aspects of the trip?

Rick: Yes. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by finding out partway along that I hadn’t taken it seriously in terms of the preparation. And I think whenever anyone is going to do something of a physical demand, whether it’s a long semi level track or it’s something like this, which is significant in terms of altitude change, one has to make sure that they’ve broken in their boots.

One has to make sure as I was told to bring an ice axe, be prepared, have a sleeping bag that can withstand a significant drop in temperature. Be prepared aside from the foods that they bring with your own safety and a bit of additional food in case, perchance, one got separated.

Do all of those things that are prudent that a mountaineer would do for sure, but you know that you’re joining a group that may have a couple of people who have climbed on other mountains. They may not have summited a lot.

Our group was pretty qualified and we’d each been on other summits and we’d done a lot of hiking and trekking, but still one has to arrive prepared for your own safety but also not to jeopardize the safety of those you are planning to summit with.

Jo Frances: Assuming you didn’t find Noah’s Ark, did you see your full moon?

What did you find at the top?

Rick: The backstory to that is that when I made arrangements to join this group and there was only one other person at the time, a fellow who was actually living in China and he had committed to going. And so the dates were going to assert and this is happenstance, I realized that if we left two days earlier, we would be able to be on the top, theoretically, of Mount Ararat under a full moon.

So I contacted them and said, ‘Could we change the date?’ They contacted the other fellow. And so our date allowed us to get to the top of Mount Ararat under a full moon.

I should explain that when you’re doing the summit, you leave at about 1:00 in the morning so that you will get up and be up there for the sunrise, which is just awesome. But it means that you are climbing the mountain pretty much in the dark.

So the full moon aspect really intrigued me and it led to someone saying to me, ‘Gee, you would be fortunate you would see the full moon over Noah’s Ark,’ which led to the title of the book. It’s interesting because I wanted the title to be Full Moon Over Mount Ararat. And the publisher in New York said, ‘You know, every American knows Noah’s Ark, but not every American knows the name Mount Ararat.’

So that was their shift on the title to be Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark. So when we got to the top of Mount Ararat, when you stand there, you’re in Turkey and you look down on the country of Armenia, and you look down on the country of Iran, and you’re not that far really from the country of Iraq.

But you do stand there and be on one country, and look on the other two. And it was fantastic. And when you’re at the top, there’s a little bit of a, you could call it a saddle and you literally have that feeling of being on top of the world.

Jo Frances: It’s just incredible. And then after the mountain, so what’s great about the book again is that there’s this period of the climbing and then the book doesn’t finish. You go on to Iraq, Iran, Armenia.

Tell us what else did you find that added to the story of the ark?

Rick: Fortunately, we had a couple of days afterward so I had asked the guide if he could make arrangements for me to stay in some small village on my own. And he got me into his grandfather’s home in a small village, off the mountain. And that led to some other stories about their reverence for the mountain, which they call ‘Angry Dog,’ which is their term for Mount Ararat. They would not call it Mount Ararat.

Ararat from Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Gor Davtyan on Unsplash

And so this village was in the foothills, if you will, of the mountain. And I saw it at night and I saw it when I woke up in the morning. There wasn’t a lot of English spoken, but their sense was that they lived in the shadow, if you will, of historically the most important, certainly, most renowned, most legendary mountain in the world. And that was their sense of place. So that was important.

Another thing was that myself and the guide, and a couple of the others I summited with, went to see a place that often gets written about and everything from National Geographic to, in its day, ‘Life’ Magazine, which it’s away from the mountain, but it’s a rock structure that, at first, even second or third glance you’re convinced looks like it’s dirt covering over a sunken ark. It just looks like that image of the ark that you described. And we went there.

It is a rock formation. They’ve done lots of speculative research, scientific research and then ground soundings, and so forth. It’s a rock structure. But visually, it has added immensely to the legend of what if.

And there have been charlatans and lots of other people that have distorted the facts, distorted the science, and tried to portray this as the landing place of Noah’s Ark. So that just enhanced my story, enhanced my understanding about how many people have exaggerated or played off this for fundraising.

They’ve done all sorts of things because the legend, if we can call it that, exists and it’s there, and some people manipulate it. But that was all within Eastern Turkey. That was before I went to Iraq.

Jo Frances: Then you visited a particular clay tablet, didn’t you?

Rick: I did. When I was in Iran, I ended up at a museum where they had on loan from the British Museum and there it was what is called the Flood Tablet. And this relates to the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh.’ And so that was fantastic.

British Museum Flood Tablet. Tablet containing a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Creative Commons: British Museum / CC0

You find these different things that happen to be there. And it is just serendipity when you can come across something like that. But when I was in Iraq, I did get out close to the mountain that in the Koran is where their story of Nuh’s ark landed. And that added a game to my understanding.

The narrative thread in the book is, of course, the traveling I did, arriving in Turkey, making my way to Mount Ararat, joining the expedition on Dogubeyazit, summiting, coming off of it, ending up in Iraq, back into Turkey, on a train to Iran, and then later to Armenia.

But when I flew to Iran, at the end of that journey, I flew to London and met with some people at the British Museum to, again, further my understanding of my research, and ended up with more books to read. And there I saw the Flood Tablet. It was just amazing. And I think that good travels for a writer require a fair dose of serendipity.

Jo Frances: I totally agree. It’s so funny. I write thrillers, but I always, I’m like, ‘Oh, I wish that was true.’ And then I’ll go somewhere and I’ll find out it was true or something did happen. A person was there at that time that could make my story actually real.

What you’ve talked about there is, world’s religions have this story but is shaped by the physical landscape.

It’s shaped by the climate and shaped by belief.

Rick: Sometimes the religious needs of a particular group skew a story for self-serving regions. And we know this by…and the analysis is done about…so the books of the Bible or the writings within the Koran or other religions. There’s long been the editorial hand of mostly guys, which doesn’t always do the woman’s side of the story very well.

You don’t let it through in the telling. But the long arc of history, again, using that more as an arch, that narrative is so varied depending on where in the world you’re encountering in it. But regardless of whether it’s something like was there a localized flood that dominated everyone’s thinking and has a legacy of the storytelling or if you’re just encountering their stories about beliefs, because the belief mechanism is a profound part of society around the world.

There have been 4,500 gods throughout history and people today discount 4,490 of them, but the other 10 are in active dispute, arguments and discussion.

Jo Frances: Indeed. And so, of course, you mentioned Iraq and Iran, and many people will avoid those places. They’re not usually on people’s travel lists.

Your most recent book, Walking with Ghosts in Papua New Guinea is also set in a country considered pretty dangerous. I lived in Australia and New Zealand, and PNG, was somewhere where you had to prepare a lot to go to.

What is it about your personality that makes you seek out these difficult places and what does the sense of danger bring to your travels?

Rick: I’ve two sons who have done a lot of travel. I’ve traveled with them. In fact, the three of us have over five trips. We ended up circumnavigating the Northern Hemisphere by train. And so we’ve ended up in places like Belarus or North Korea.

There is something that heightens your senses, your awareness, if you’re traveling with others, your commitment to one another, not just counting the bags, you don’t leave something behind but watching out for one another. But I’ve often said to them that, ‘When you’re traveling, keep one eye on the horizon and the other looking over your back.’

I think if you’ve got that mindset, you’re prepared for the unexpected. You don’t end up getting to all the places that others would say, ‘Oh, you must see, you must do this,’ or, ‘Gosh, don’t try to go there without doing this.’ But you end up encountering the people.

And as a writer those are the shadows where the best stories are tucked away. They come from the individuals who maybe take you into their home or help you out of a sketchy situation.

When I was trucking the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea, again, it was spontaneous that I didn’t even know about it until a neighbor, when Janice and I were living in Australia, a neighbor said he was going to do it. And so we ended up again securing the proper tour guide and set up, and porters, and all of that stuff so that one could be safe in a somewhat at times unsafe set of circumstances so that there is a definite draw that doesn’t let you go to sleep right away at night because you’re thinking about safety, even if you’re bone-tired from trekking.

When you wake up in the middle of the night, you’ve got a little bit of a second hesitation in your breath because you realize you’re in the pitch dark in a place that has, whether it’s wild animals or circumstances where people aren’t always hospitable, but we had an amazing time in Papua New Guinea.

The Kokoda trail was a pivotal battle in World War II. But the people living in Europe and people living in North America, it was war at the end of the world. To Australians, as you would know, it was war on their doorstep.

Jo Frances: The difference in weather between Iraq, climbing, and Papua New Guinea, it must’ve been crazy.

Can you explain the landscape of PNG?

Rick: In Papua New Guinea, it is always about to rain and you could feel that in the air. And they sometimes have torrential rains. I’ve had torrential rains out of the travels but we didn’t encounter on our trek, the portion of which is so demanding up, down, up, down, up, up, up, up, and then down, down, down in the Stanley mountains.

But what took us six days, I’ve talked to others, it took them 10 days or 11 days because of the rain and it just turns the ground to muck and sucks your boots off. So, that is part of it.

The other is that if you visit sites of war, whether it’s in America, you go to civil war sites that have all been curated and fancied up, and the lawns get mowed or you go to battle sites in Europe or elsewhere where they’ve been freshened, and they’re somewhat historically polished for today’s visitors.

In PNG, we trekked where the Australians and the Japanese fought, and a lot of it by bayonet, a lot of it, face to face, a lot of it just a horrible reminder that war has no winners. Everybody loses. Yes, there’s a victor, but everybody’s a victim. And it was terrible there. MacArthur called it the worst fighting conditions anywhere in World War II.

So when you’re trekking there today, you’re walking through sites that are as they were then. They’ve not been fancied up. You’ve got 17 shades of green. The jungle is there as the jungle was then and you can still see pits that were carved for people to do their fighting out of, whether they were the aggressor or the defender at different times on the trek.

There is an alarming sense of aches and just the horribleness of it all is very real and inches away from you when you crawl into one of the little fighting pits, you’re there and that was upsetting.

Jo Frances: I was just wondering then, do you ever just go to the beach, Rick?!

Rick: Janice and I have been together for 30 years. But the last dozen, she’s had some really interesting postings around the world. She’s in the aviation field. And at the time we were in Australia, she was general manager with the Cairns Airport, but she’s had these other postings.

So, before I left where I was working full time so that we could get back to living together in Australia, and then in Europe, we would always meet up somewhere in the world once a month. That was our commitment during those years. And often, we would meet in a place that was just comfortable, that you didn’t have to think about anything.

So we did have some of those descriptions that you’ve spoken about. But our penchant is to get to some other places. Janice and I had the opportunity once to go from Lhasa in Tibet, over the Himalayas in a 4 by 4 with a driver-guide making our way to Kathmandu, and she’s game for stuff like that.

But there are times that you want to have a little stockpile of books and not have to think about preparing your own meal. I fully respect that type of travel is what many people want to do. I just hope they take along one of your books or one of mine.

Jo Frances: I’m not really a beach person either, but it is nice sometimes too to just, as you say, have someone cook for you or something. As we talk now, the world is under the coronavirus pandemic and I can’t even go and visit my mom where she lives in the next town, let alone leave the country.

Are you reflecting on what travel means to you and what does travel bring to your life, and to your creative side in your writing?

Rick: I don’t think any of us will ever again take for granted the right to assemble. I come out of the destination marketing world for Vancouver and in Canada, and we hosted the Olympics, and we have an amazing convention center. And the hotels, many of them today are closed.

One wonders what the world of meetings and conventions, conferences will look like in the coming few years. So you think about that.

The tourism industry was one of the first to be wound down because of the pandemic and will be one of the last to get back on sturdy legs. And I don’t think we will see consumer confidence in the world of travel and a tourism industry internationally of what 2019 looked like.

What it does do is make people ask, how does that recovery look for travel? What will it be like when you get on an airplane and you’re issued masks, which not everybody will wear? How do you make sure that somebody polices that and gets everybody to wear them? How are airplane prices going to be affected if they’re leaving the middle seats empty?

What happens when you arrive in a country and they ask you to self-quarantine for a bit? You’re certainly not going to go there for a short journey and you would only go if you’re going to see family and friends, and have an extended, a multi-week visit to make the self-quarantine worthwhile.

All of that is the coming 12 months for sure. And so I wonder about that. I wonder where one will be able to get to. Turkish Airlines have pretty much suspended a lot of their domestic flights, and the same thing with some of the trains. So if you want to get, say, to Eastern Turkey right now, if you could go on Mount Ararat, what would that look like? How would you get there?

What’s the affordability compared to when a lot of people were using those airplanes if only fewer are? I think all of those dynamics are unfortunately going to be with all those of us who wish to travel, whether it’s to a beach resort or it’s on something much more adventuresome. We will be hampered in terms of access, and affordability, and a willingness of others to being in close quarters.

Jo Frances: Do you have somewhere in mind that you’re planning for once things do get back to whatever the new normal looks like?

Rick: About four years ago, a buddy and I met up in Chicago. We took the train to the city of New Orleans and we went to New Orleans, having Halloween night in New Orleans. And then we got in a rented vehicle and we had a weekend. And we just chased really good music, and really good food, and traveled places, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, that neither of us had ever been to.

We have another trip that we would like to do. A road trip into the States, just the two of us around Kentucky and so forth, this fall. We planned it for late October. I don’t know. Will we be able to do that? And if we do, that would be wonderful.

I also would like to hike the Chilkoot trail, which starts in Alaska and then ends in Yukon in Canada. It was made prominent, famous, around the 1898 gold rush, the Yukon gold rush, the Alaskan gold rush. And the movie called The Wild is out now. And there’s actually a scene of the people going up this.

It’s a very demanding, very straight, but short duration in terms of a couple of days rather than a longer trek. I’d love to do that. It’s something that I’ve long wanted to do. So those are a couple of them for sure.

Jo Frances: One thing we can do now, of course, is escape through books.

Apart from your own books, can you recommend a couple of others that you love in terms of your favorites or anything specifically about the areas we’ve talked about?

Rick: A travel book that influenced me as a traveler but also as a reader of travel books is Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. And it’s I think a remarkable tale written by a traveler who at the time, I think it may have been his first book though he was an ingrained part of U.K. society and wrote articles and so forth. But In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, I would say, along with his The Songlines, set in Australia are two books on the travel side.

Wade Davis wrote a book called Into the Silence, came out just a few years ago. And it’s about George Mallory and the quest of Mount Everest, but also very much about the British society expeditions and so forth, coming out of the World War, and what that meant, and then leading to expeditions in the summer. So that, Into the Silence by Wade Davis I think is pretty important.

But for the book I’m reading right now, driven by current circumstances, it’s called The Great Influenza. And it’s the story of the 1918 pandemic. It’s a book that came out in 2004 written by John M. Barry. And he did a new afterword for an edition that came out on the 100th anniversary, so just a couple of years ago. It came out in 2018.

Reading it is at once educational and at the same time horrifying how even with hundreds of thousands of incidents of the disease in late July, early August period in 1918 British medical journals and French medical journals declared the epidemic over. And as Barry writes, he said… And they declared it by way as also of a mild version.

The way he writes about that is that it was like a forest fire and it can appear to be out, but it’s spreading through its roots. It’s spreading underground and then pops up in an amazing flame miles away for what people thought was the locale.

And of course, it did within weeks begin to pop up and was a more adaptive mutated virus and went on to kill an estimated 50 to 100 million people around the world. So that’s, I think, an important read.

I would also add that if you’re into fiction, if someone was listening to this and figure, well, the world’s about more than these nonfiction works, and you’ve got some amazing, amazing writing, and I would put your books, which I’m going to seek out on a list with, like Peter May. And he’s got The Blackhouse and he’s got just some amazing books called the Lewis books. There are three of them set in Scotland.

And Philip Kerr, who’s written Prussian Blue and some other books. So if one is into the drama of unfolding murders and, and solving them, then those are two authors, Philip Kerr and Peter May, that I thoroughly enjoy.

Jo Frances: Great. Well, lots of varied books there. That’s brilliant.

Where can people find you and your books online?

Rick: The books thankfully of Skyhorse Publisher in New York, is distributed by Simon & Schuster internationally. So that makes the books available, whether they’re in a bookstore or have to be sought online or in these days seeking them online. And Amazon has been a nice supporter. So internationally that’s there.

My website is RickAntonson.com. I also, when I speak, I’ve had many opportunities literally from Berlin to Bogota in recent years to talk about the notion of the long-range, which I think is applicable now as people are wondering about what to do in the short-term, but kind of keeping up…a nod to the longer term, I often talk about the concept of cathedral thinking, which is really long-term.

There’s a website for that, which is www.cathedralthinking.com. And so some of my presentations are on there along with those from anyone else, like the activist Greta Thunberg has talked about the need for the European Union and British governments to, and other governments to use cathedral thinking to solve climate change issues with a view to the long-term. So those are our two sites.

Jo Frances: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Rick. That was great.

Rick: Jo, I thank you. I would like to have been the one asking the questions for part of the interview because looking at what you’ve done, you’ve traveled all over, you’ve done so many fascinating things, and you’re a storyteller with so many published books. I admire what you have done and it’s an honor to have been able to participate with this.

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