In 1858, Alfred Wallace, while laid up with malaria in the middle of his long Moluccan sojourn, wrote a brief essay which made its way to Charles Darwin, who had been searching for the solution to a problem for two decades.
When Darwin finally published ''On the Origin of Species'' a couple of years later, he gave credit to Wallace, who nonetheless faded, unprotesting, into relative obscurity.
Wallace had already been on one major expedition before his Indonesian journey, a voyage to Brazil, which ended badly when most of the bird and insect samples he was carrying were lost in a fire on the ship taking him back to England. But his eight years in the Spice Islands, one of the world's major hotbeds of bio-diversity, rank among the major expeditions of scientific discovery.
Tim Severin decided to retrace his voyage. He and his crew spent several months in the Spice Islands, stopping at Wallace's ports of call from the Aru Islands in the east to Sulawesi in the west, taking pictures, recording sightings of butterflies and birds, checking out the environmental record and interviewing local officials.
''The Spice Islands Voyage'' is a travelogue-biography, a balanced combination of historical re-enactment and contemporary adventure, which tells the story of that ground-breaking voyage. But as Severin follows Wallace’s journey, he starts to find a darker truth: that species are not being protected but extorted.
How involved was Wallace and how can he end the abuse? Severin’s hero of Alfred Wallace is beginning to look less heroic and more suspicious…
In ‘The Spice Islands Voyage’, world renowned explorer Tim Severin goes in search of the real story behind Alfred Wallace’s expeditions.