VANISHED FLEETS: Sea Stories from Old Van Diemen's Land by Alan Villiers

VANISHED FLEETS: Sea Stories from Old Van Diemen's Land

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KIRKUS REVIEW

True stories about Tasmania, first published in 1931, now revised and reprinted. The island of Tasmania (or Van Diemen's Land) is in the southerly latitudes of the Commonwealth of Australia and was the jumping off place for Roald Amundsen's voyage to the South Pole. In 1803 a penal colony was established there, a ""devil's island,"" from which escape was nearly impossible. Aside from the incredible ice-packed currents, there was no place to escape to, even by ship. Later, in an attempt to raise the morals of the islanders, many hundreds of girls were shipped there. But most of the girls were a moral match for the convicts and the result was such that the scheme was quickly abandoned. Pirates' nests abounded and the number of sunken hulks around the Tasmanian islands is ""so great that it cannot be accurately stated."" Villiers has grim and exotic tales to tell of the rise and decline of whaling and of wind-filled clipper ships and schooners. The island is indeed brought vividly to life, as are its wild inhabitants. When Midshipman Edward Tregurtha's ship captured a French brig, he was put in charge of the enemy vessel. . . at the time, Tregurtha was thirteen. Many photographs, including one of the hulk of a barque once commanded by Joseph Conrad. Villiers, a well-weathered writer of superior skills needs no further corroboration.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1975
Publisher: Scribners