In 1864 Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew of four aboard the schooner Grafton wreck on the southern end of the island. Utterly alone in a dense coastal forest, plagued by stinging blowflies and relentless rain, Captain Musgrave--rather than succumb to this dismal fate--inspires his men to take action. With barely more than their bare hands, they build a cabin and, remarkably, a forge, where they manufacture their tools. Under Musgrave's leadership, they band together and remain civilized through even the darkest and most terrifying days.
Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island--twenty miles of impassable cliffs and chasms away--the Invercauld wrecks during a horrible storm. Nineteen men stagger ashore. Unlike Captain Musgrave, the captain of the Invercauld falls apart given the same dismal circumstances. His men fight and split up; some die of starvation, others turn to cannibalism. Only three survive. Musgrave and all of his men not only endure for nearly two years, they also plan their own astonishing escape, setting off on one of the most courageous sea voyages in history.
Using the survivors' journals and historical records, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett brings this extraordinary untold story to life, a story about leadership and the fine line between order and chaos.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 44.
- Review Date: 2007-03-12
- Reviewer: Staff
In early 1864, heading back to Australia after a failed mining expedition, the crew of the Grafton encountered a violent storm and found themselves shipwrecked in the Auckland Islands, off the coast of New Zealand. Druett, a maritime historian (In the Wake of Madness), draws upon the journals of the ship's captain, Thomas Musgrave, and prospector François Raynal to reveal how the crew pulled together and made the best of their circumstances for nearly two years. By contrast, when the Invercauld ran aground on the other side of the island months later—beyond an impassable mountain range, and hence unaware they were not alone—the surviving sailors quickly began eating their dead crewmates out of desperation. Soon, only three remained, the ineffectual captain and another officer being kept alive by a resourceful seaman. Druett tells the two stories in strict chronological order, allowing readers to become familiar with the Grafton party before weaving the Invercauld survivors into the narrative. She zeroes in on the salient details of their ordeals, identifying the plants that kept the castaways from contracting scurvy or sketching out an improvised recipe for soap with equal aplomb. This is a fine addition to the genre of survival tales like Endurance or In the Heart of the Sea. (Jul. 20)