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LEFT FOR DEAD by Eric Jay Dolin


Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World

by Eric Jay Dolin

Pub Date: May 7th, 2024
ISBN: 9781324093084
Publisher: Liveright/Norton

The bestselling author of Rebels at Sea, A Furious Sky, and Leviathan returns with another adventure at sea.

In his latest maritime narrative, Dolin chronicles an early-19th-century calamity featuring the usual privation and acts of heroism but more than the usual bad behavior. In early 1812, the American brig Nanina sailed for the then-uninhabited Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, where its crew hoped to find an abundant supply of seals. Later that year, the Isabella left New South Wales for Britain carrying a mixture of pardoned convicts, soldiers, and their wives. The ship’s incompetent captain barely avoided early disaster but later hit a reef in the Falklands; the crew managed to escape to a deserted island. When supplies ran low, a few men sailed the 17-foot ship’s boat across 1,000 miles of stormy ocean to Brazil, where a British admiral dispatched a ship that reached the castaways, as well as the Nanina, which had just discovered them. With the War of 1812 in progress, the British captain announced that the Nanina was a prize of war. He sailed off with both ships, aware that he was abandoning five members of the Nanina crew who were off hunting seals. When they returned, they were mystified to find their base deserted. Though readers already know that they survived, Dolin maintains an interesting narrative of their 18 months alone on the barren subarctic Falklands. Despite the absence of firearms, food was rarely lacking on islands dense with seals, penguins, and feral hogs and the services of a large, aggressive dog. The sailors’ mastery of sewing, carving, and carpentry proved invaluable. Personality clashes instigated much of the drama, with episodes of cooperation and mutual suffering alternating with selfishness, betrayal, and abandonment. Eventually, ships arrived to take them home, after which “most disappeared from the historical record.”

An entertaining castaway tale.