Very similar to Edwards' earlier Islands of Angry Ghosts (1966), a meticulously factual and rather hairbending account of the tribulations of the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia which went down loaded with treasure off the Australian coast some 300 years ago. This time he writes of another star-crossed vessel, the 38-gun East Indiaman Zeewyk, wrecked in 1727 off the island chain near Australia's Great Southland -- the captain, one Jan Steyns, a quite madcap fellow, simply sailed contrary to orders into a coral reef which he later named Half-Moon, a ""foolish plan,"" says Edwards, which apparently had no logic. At any rate, the survivors escaped via the Sloepie, built from the remains of the Zeewyk (incidentally becoming the first ship ever constructed in Australia). It's a gusty tale of grog-swilling mates, a mutiny that never was (Steyns also falsified records), fevers and scurvy, harsh punishment (death) for the crime of sodomy (""This sin, and the subsequent executions, were to throw dark shadows over the lives of the Zeewyk men""), and most of all the mystery of Captain Steyns -- why did he take his ship into the ""forbidden waters"" of the coral coast and what eventually became of him? Good.