by Bertha S.--Ed. Dodge ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1979
Shipwreck and survival beyond the Crusoe norm. On a seal-hunting expedition in 1812, Captain Charles Barnard rescued the survivors of a wrecked British ship from a bleak island in the Falklands--only to have them seize his vessel and sail off, marooning him with four young seamen, How that came about is explained in a wordy introduction by Bertha Dodge, who found this forgotten 1829 biography, verified the account, and presents it along with supporting documents. The Captain's terse, straightforward journal stands on its own, however, revealing as much about him as it does about his ordeal. Barnard, a seasoned New England sea captain at 32, teaches and controls his men, one of them dangerously hostile, with amazing patience and subtlety. Only rarely does emotion break through and then it moves him to rail bitterly against the fellow-mariners who betrayed him. In the struggle against cold and hunger, nothing is wasted--neither any particle of the animals they catch for food and clothing nor any time in self-pity. But the grueling drudgery necessary to stay alive points up an equivalent danger--the temptation to just give up. It comes home when the four crewmen sail to another island in the small boat left with them and abandon the Captain without food, tools or shelter. But he simply starts again and maintains himself until the penitent four return. The only break in the monotony of their existence is the constant threat of drowning as they sail or row from one nearby island to another to hunt food: one has pigs, one has geese, another birds' eggs, and still another seals. The weather rules and time becomes meaningless; to stop and rest is to starve. Yet, Barnard accepts it all. And even when the men are picked up by whalers, after almost two years of isolation, his ordeal is not over; he must face another long, frustrating delay before he can return to his family, who had assumed he was dead. But, unshaken, the Captain quickly returned to sea. The hardships of the mariner's life take second place here to the man's steely will and moral strength.
Pub Date: April 1, 1979
Page Count: -
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1979
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