The Darkest Jungle

  • by Todd Balf
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 9 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Darkest Jungle tells the harrowing story of America's first ship canal exploration across a narrow piece of land in Central America called the Darien, a place that loomed large in the minds of the world's most courageous adventurers in the nineteenth century. With rival warships and explorers from England and France days behind, the 27-member U.S. Darien Exploring Expedition landed on the Atlantic shore at Caledonia Bay in eastern Panama to begin their mad dash up the coast-hugging mountains of the Darien wilderness. The whole world watched as this party attempted to be the first to traverse the 40-mile isthmus, the narrowest spot between the Atlantic and Pacific in all the Americas.Leading them was the charismatic commander Isaac Strain, an adventuring 33-year-old U.S. Navy lieutenant. The party could have turned back except, said Strain, they were to a man "revolted at the idea" of failing at a task they seemed destined to accomplish. Yet Strain's party would wander lost in the jungle for another sixty nightmarish days, following a tortuously contorted and uncharted tropical river. Their guns rusted in the damp heat, expected settlements never materialized, and the lush terrain provided little to no sustenance. As the unending march dragged on, the party was beset by flesh-embedding parasites and a range of infectious tropical diseases they had no antidote for (or understanding of). In the desperate final days, in the throes of starvation, the survivors flirted with cannibalism and the sickest men had to be left behind so, as the journal keeper painfully recorded, the rest might have a chance to live.
Based on the vividly detailed log entries of Strain and his officers, other period sources, and Balf's own treks in the Darien Gap, this is a rich and utterly compelling historical narrative that will thrill readers who enjoyed In the Heart of the Sea, Isaac's Storm, and other sagas of adventure at the limits of human endurance.


What the Critics Say

"[Todd] Balf has written a compelling, tragic story." (Publishers Weekly)
"Balf's colorful account of the venture is compelling reading." (Booklist)


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Dullest narration I've ever had misfortune to hear

What disappointed you about The Darkest Jungle?

Narration is just dreadful. I listen to a lot of audio books and have never heard such monotonous reading. Stupidly didn't listen to a sample first; big mistake. All this is compounded by an extremely slow first hour or so which covers the background to the main protagonist's life in mind numbingly tedious detail, such that I just couldn't bear to listen to any more.

What was most disappointing about Todd Balf’s story?

The begining (first hour or so) is very boring. I didn't listen to any more.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Massively. Monotone delivery which just droned on in the most tedious way.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Darkest Jungle?

Certainly the begining is far too detailed and slow.

Read full review

- Stanley

Book Details

  • Release Date: 29-01-2004
  • Publisher: Books on Tape