Swashbuckling maritime history reanimated by a noted naval enthusiast.
Mystery writer and nautical historian Druett (Run Afoul, 2006, etc.) does great justice to the saga of two large ships, the Grafton and the Invercauld, both shipwrecked on the same remote South Pacific island in 1864. The first vessel, navigated by French gold miner Francois Raynal and skilled captain Thomas Musgrave, embarked on an adventurous, intrepid voyage southeast of Australia toward Campbell Island to collect a cache of silver-laden tin. Through hurricanes and sea squalls, the Grafton reached the island, but a sudden illness and inclement weather forced the ship to attempt a return to Sydney. In his journal, Musgrave wrote that on the journey home, the sea looked “as if it were boiling.” Swallowed by an immense storm, the schooner was pounded into the jagged reefs of uninhabited Auckland Island. Its crew scrounged for shelter and food (sea lion and bird flesh, pungently described) ashore, with a plumb view of the Grafton’s rain-soaked wreckage looming as a grim reminder. Through months of navigating rugged terrain, fighting raw conditions and swarms of stinging sand flies, the castaways worked together utilizing wood from the ship’s hull to erect a cabin. Meanwhile, Scottish square-rigger Invercauld, bound for South America with a crew of 25, was being ripped apart by the perilous reefs on the other side of Auckland Island. After a year and a half, the resourceful Grafton crew built a small vessel and sailed to New Zealand; the Invercauld crew, whittled down to three survivors, had to be rescued by a passing Spanish vessel. Druett excels at recreating the men’s struggles and desperation (tempered by boundless hope) with extensive quotations from their journals. She also offers engaging biographical information on the castaways, descriptions of the island’s animal population and general historical detail.
Depicted with consistent brio, stormy seas become epic events.