'Are they all gone?' Cat whispered, shocked. Who could believe that death could be so swift, so ruthless?"" All but ten survivors perish when the squarerigger Moonraker, just out of Melbourne carrying miners and gold from the Australian fields, founders in a huge sea cavern among the desolate, fogbound Auckland Islands. Clifford sculpts the odd group vividly: gentle, religious O'Shea; mean-spirited Gullitt; indomitable Bessie Taylor, the only woman; Spencer Gray, a quiet and sensitive half-Maori; and thirteen-year-old cabin boy Catlow Rider. It is Cat's story, though in the third person. Through him we see the bedraggled group as it draws on individual skills, luck, and the leadership of a charismatic Irishman, John Kell, to find or fashion food, shelter, clothing, tools. Kell's quiet control maintains order even when four of the men, impatient to bring home their gold, set out in a quarterboat for New Zealand--over 300 miles away--never to be heard from again. It is Kell, too, who literally whips the band into shape when scurvy and despair beat them down, and who carves the tiny wooden boats whose message--punched on a zinc sail--eventually effects their rescue nearly a year after the wreck. A postscript plants the kicker: this gripping adventure is based on the actual 1866 wreck of the General Grant in an Aucklands sea cavern. Not so much seat's-edge suspense as a solid intensity that captures the imagination.