The island of Socotra is a dot on the map where the Gulf of Aden meets the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. Part of Yemen, Socotra is a mysterious mountain land with Bedouin cave-dwellers and strange and primitive forms of animal and plant life, including the peculiar dragon's blood tree.
In 1956 Douglas Botting and five young fellow-travellers mounted the first scientific expedition to Socotra since 1899, and found much to discover archaeologically, botanically, zoologically, and most of all, anthropologically. They took blood samples, filmed people and dwellings, recorded the local language, collected flora and fauna, and provided medical services. On mountain treks they endured 'The Pestilences of the Three Hs' -- hakak (fleas), which bit them in caves where they slept, hagal (smoke), which choked them in huts where they cooked and humera (donkeys), which jumped on them if they camped in the open. But the people of Socotra were cordial hosts and mostly quite pleased to be the object of western curiosity.
A remarkable classic of travel writing, Island of the Dragon's Blood is a fresh, vivid and beautifully-written account of a journey that brought up to date our knowledge of a contemporary people with an ancient culture.
Island of the Dragon's Blood was Douglas Botting's first book about his first expedition -- the Oxford University Expedition to Socotra. He went on many expeditions and wrote numerous books subsequently. He was a member of a pioneer archaeological survey of Lake Tchad in the Southern Sahara, a member of the first balloon crew to fly over Africa, the first free Westerner to travel in Arctic Siberia since the Russian Revolution, a member of the first expedition to explore South America from the Amazon to the Caribbean by hovercraft, and a member of the Royal Society expedition to the Mato Grosso, as well as Special Correspondent for the BBC, Time-Life and Geographical Magazine, biographer of travellers and naturalists Gerald Durrell, Gavin Maxwell and Alexander von Humboldt, and author of several books of reportage and investigative history on Germany at war and under the Occupation, including In the Ruins of the Reich and the bestseller Nazi Gold. He was a Member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and Society of Authors and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Douglas Botting died in 2018.
'It really is a little masterpiece, a work of genius -- up there, for me, with the travel classics, a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing -- his island, a unique and remarkable place, so lovingly and warmly portrayed'
-- Mike Carter, Observer correspondent
'A writer of true quality. His serious and often beautiful writing is interspersed with a very individual humour'
-- New Statesman
'One of the best travel books I have read in years ... perceptive, humorous, frank and informative'
-- Oxford Mail
'A born writer in the true sense'
-- Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water
'Rare and fascinating information'
-- The Spectator
'A delightful science-travelogue'
-- New Scientist
'A most attractive book, with unusual wit and an admirable literary style'
-- Birmingham Post
'A good writer with an eye for the informative, the interesting and the human. His book will stand worthily at the end of the Arabian shelf which includes Doughty, Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark'
-- New Zealand Herald
'Botting has an easy pen. It is great fun'
-- Daily Telegraph
'Clear and intelligent ... rounded and conscientious'
-- Times Literary Supplement