I recall reading a story in the 1970s (USA paperback) about a small group of people (anywhere from a dozen to 50?) stranded on the wrong side of the continent from their rescue. (There was some time limit because either the rescue ship would leave on set date, or had to get there before their food ran out.)

They were under a strict No Interference with the natives culture/tech/knowledge. (Like Star Trek's Prime Directive) So I believe they had to destroy or disguise all their high tech equipment/weapons before they start the journey.

I think the natives were similar in shape/coloring that the survivors could say they were natives from a distant land to account for the small differences. But don't remember for sure.

The land is quite populated and probably a European Middle ages time period (1000-1400) I don't remember if they had firearms, or were only using swords, bows and spears.

Pretty sure they had to interact with the natives much like in Weber/Ringo's "Empire of Man" series. (Sometimes diplomacy, sometimes fighting)

The main thing I remember, was when they finally arrived and were rescued, they got in trouble because they had accidentally introduced a different style of harness similar to a horse collar or oxen yoke.

Horse collar Oxen Yoke

Previously the natives tied their carts to a collar like a dog collar which choked their beast of burden when they tried to pull heavy loads so it limited them to loads maybe only 10% of what the new collars/yokes could handle. (The survivors needed to transport heavy loads, which is why I think they needed to carry their own food.) Previously the native animals either pulled light carts or carried cargo on their backs like mules.

The new collar/yoke allowed an animal to pull the load with their shoulders instead of their necks which is what makes the new collar/yoke so effective.

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    en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_David%27s_Spaceship Perhaps?
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 22, 2020 at 19:15
  • @JonCuster Oh, I forgot that one; you're most likely right. You should post that as an answer.
    – DavidW
    Aug 22, 2020 at 19:36
  • 1
    You’ve named the wrong David Weber book when saying what this one isn’t. We Few is the final book in the Empire of Man series, and the only one that doesn’t include a long trek across an alien world with mediaeval technology. The earlier ones are March Upcountry, March to the Sea and March to the Stars. Also, John Ringo Is the coauthor.
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 22, 2020 at 20:13
  • @MikeScott Ooops your right, corrected. (loved that series)
    – NJohnny
    Aug 22, 2020 at 20:57
  • If you hadn't mentioned the horse collars, I wouldn't have known which of several SF stories this might be. Heck, Poul Anderson alone has used that basic plot more than once. For instance, in "The Three-Cornered Wheel," his hero needed to haul some very heavy equipment across a lengthy distance on dry land without violating a Sacred Taboo. (Perfect circles were holy symbols, not to be used for any mundane purpose. So wheels were off-limits.) He found a way to use non-circular wheels and make it work. Otherwise the human expedition would have died when they ran out of terrestrial food.
    – Lorendiac
    Aug 22, 2020 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


I believe this is King David's Spaceship. The Wikipedia summary indicates that the protagonists use several technologies too advanced for the planet, including the yoke.

The Imperials eventually conceded the self-governing issue, but they realized that MacKinnie and Graham (who have now become the most famous couple on the planet) were part of a Dougal plot to acquire knowledge from the First Empire library during the Makassar trip, which embarrassed the Imperial Navy. The Navy officers insisted that MacKinnie and Graham, at least, be visibly punished, while the Imperial political representatives wanted to give Makassar a chance to continue to develop independently. Using the pretext of Graham's illegal introduction of new technology - wooden horse collars - on Makassar, the political representatives offered MacKinnie and Graham exile on Makassar as punishment (while reminding them that Dougal was likely to execute them due to their fame), and they accepted.

  • While initially I did not think that was it, upon reading the wiki It might be....
    – NJohnny
    Aug 22, 2020 at 21:02
  • Then maybe you could mark the question correct?
    – NomadMaker
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:54
  • It was only asked less than a day ago - give him a change to maybe verify that it is actually the book he was thinking of...
    – Gwyn Evans
    Aug 23, 2020 at 13:38
  • Finally got a copy and checked... I had read it along time ago, and could not remember why someone would need to travel across the planet so quickly. I forgot about the trip to Makassar and the need to get to the 'library' and back to the ship quickly.
    – NJohnny
    Aug 24, 2020 at 8:21

This is possibly Harry Turtledove's Noninterference (1987), or one of the novellas (originally published in Analog) it is a fix-up of. ("Noninterference" and "Report on Bilbeis IV" are similar in regards to the interactions with the natives of the aforementioned planet.)

The human explorers have strict rules preventing interference in primitive cultures, to the point of physically disguising themselves and leaving behind any tech that can't be hidden.

Of course they screw up, get caught, and generally make a hash of things.

  • I have read Interference before this is not the book I am thinking of.
    – NJohnny
    Aug 22, 2020 at 21:16
  • No--they never traveled across the planet under their own power. The only substantial travel was as captives. Aug 23, 2020 at 23:02

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