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Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World (edition 2007)

by Joan Druett

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170769,943 (3.77)23
Member:fiverivers
Title:Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
Authors:Joan Druett
Info:Algonquin Books (2007), Paperback, 284 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett

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"It has seldom fallen to our lot as journalists to record a more remarkable instance of escape from the perils of shipwreck, and subsequent providential deliverance from the privations of a desolate island, after two years' sojourn, than that we have now to furnish. -- Southland News, July 29, 1865"

The Auckland Islands lie south of New Zealand, and remain uninhabited even today, where they remain a nature reserve. Attempts to build settlements and cultivate the land have never worked, mainly due to very harsh year round weather conditions and poor soil. The islands are mountainous, and the rocky coastline has proven disastrous for many ships. The main island, Auckland, is about 26 treacherous miles long. At the northern end, Port Ross is the site of the first attempt at a whaling settlement, Hardwicke, which lasted only two and half years starting in 1849. At the southern end there is a narrow channel called Carnley Harbor. This is where this true adventure story begins.

On January 3, 1864, the Schooner Grafton was shipwrecked on the southern end of the main island of the Auckland Islands. The crew of five included: the captain, Thomas Musgrave, a master mariner and gifted navigator; Francois Raynal, a Frenchman who had spent eleven years prospecting in the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria; George Harris, a twenty year old Englishman with many years sailing experience; a twenty-eight year old Norwegian, Alexander Maclaren (Alick), with a good sailing record; and a Portuguese cook named Henry Forges. As the ship broke apart, they salvaged as much as they could, including Raynal's gun, and set up camp.

Four months later on May 10, 1864, the ship Invercauld, with its crew of twenty five shipwrecked on the northwestern end of the island. The crew included: the captain, George Dalgarno; Robert Holding, a twenty-three year old, who like Raynal, had spent time on the Australian goldfields; the first mate, Andrew Smith; and the second mate, an American seaman, James Mahoney. Neither group knew about the other.

The story details the differences in the way the two groups dealt with their predicament. And they were very very different.

The Grafton crew worked as a team, selected the captain as their leader, dropped their class differences, and did amazing things with the limited number of resources at their disposal. A cabin, forge, bellows, nails, and soap are only a few of the things that they created with their resourcefulness. The Grafton crew's saga lasted until the end of August 1865. A year and seven months of extreme hardship.

The Invercauld crew was a very different story. The captain and his first officers refused to give up their class roles. The captain's lack of leadership and resourcefulness resulted in death for most of the crew, and several members even resorted to cannibalism. The Invercauld survivors were rescued about a year later at the end of May, 1865.

It might be fair to note that while the leadership and comaraderie of the Grafton crew aided in their survival, there were other factors which may have added to their success. They were shipwrecked in January, and while the year round weather conditions of this subarctic island are harsh, it was summer. The Invercauld crew on the other hand, were stranded in May at the approach of winter. The Grafton did not completely break up and afforded much needed materials for the crew. They also had Raynal's gun which would prove helpful in the search for food. The Invercauld was quickly lost, and gave the crew little time for salvage of any kind. Both Raynal of the Grafton, and Holding of the Invercauld had spent time on the goldfields in Australia, and had learned techniques that would help with their survival, but it was the complete lack of leadership of the Invercauld's captain, who refused to take advantage of any suggestions made by Holding, that may have made the biggest difference.

Who knew that seals and sea lions were so nimble on land:

"the castaways had learned a great deal about their prey, including the best method of tackling them. As Raynal described, the prescription for approaching a mature sea lion was to fix the animal's gaze, "and, without hesitating, advance straight upon him, until you are near enough to deal a blow on his head with your cudgel exactly between the two eyes." It was crucial to hit the target exactly. If the animal did not fall at once..........., the next move was to whirl about, run like hell, "and leave the field open for him to regain the sea." Not only could a hurt and angry sea lion maul a man with his tusks and crush him to death with his weight but he was unnervingly agile on land, being perfectly prepared to pursue a fleeing castaway up a cliff if he was not given the chance to plunge back into the surf instead."

"..........Musgrave was alone when he set out to climb the mountain to the northeast of camp........To his surprise, there were many signs of sea lions...."In going up I found seal tracks nearly to the top of the mountain, which I reckon is about four miles from the water; and about three miles up I saw a seal."

This non-fiction story is a page turner that reads like fiction. If it were not for the fact that the story is true, you would find it implausible. ( )
10 vote NanaCC | Jul 26, 2013 |
Joan Druett's Island of the Lost is an impeccably researched, well-written, well-presented history of two concurrent wrecks on the Auckland Islands in the late 19th century.

Her easy style balances journalistic integrity with the need to captivate the reader, and holds you from the first paragraph and never lags.

Overall, the stories of these two groups of shipwrecked sailors is a keen contrast between the higher ideals and purposes of humans, and our more base, predatory instincts. In fact, the actions of these real, historical people will both astonish and disgust you.

Oh, and now Auckland Islands is now the second place on earth I would never wish to visit unless I had a death-wish. ( )
  fiverivers | Jan 27, 2013 |
Joan Druett hit upon a gold mine of material for her book "Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World." Two different boats shipwrecked on tiny, inhospitable Auckland Island, miles off the coast of New Zealand. Completely unknown to each other, the two crews really illustrate the difference between men who are driven to survive and men who have given up. One crew worked together (and admittedly had a gun that made a big difference for its food supply) while the other crew fell apart, with most dying, unable to even try helping themselves. The facts of these true tales are really interesting, though I wasn't a huge fan of Druett's storytelling -- especially in the first half of the book... she includes lots of details about the island flora and fauna but the manner of the telling kind of pulled away from the story. I liked the second half of the book better as the story really started to come together. ( )
2 vote amerynth | Oct 2, 2011 |
“Hundreds of miles from civilization, two ships wreck on opposite ends of the same deserted island in this true story of human nature at its best – and its worst.

Auckland Island is a godforsaken place in the middle of the Southern Ocean, 285 miles south of New Zealand. With year-round freezing rain and howling winds, it is one of the most forbidding places in the world. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death.”

-Island of the Lost

So begins Joan Druett’s book, Island of the Lost – Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World. It is a tale that would seem implausible, if not for the fact that it is all absolutely true. In 1864, near the end of the age of sail, two separate ships did indeed wreck along the coast of Auckland Island – a tiny sliver of land sticking out of the forbidding Southern Ocean – a place that remains uninhabited to this day. By piecing together logbooks, memoirs, newspaper accounts and Druett’s own personal trips to the desolate island, she is able to create a vivid account of two divergent stories of survival. The schooner Grafton and its crew of five wrecks at the southern end of the island. Through inspired leadership and the camaraderie of the whole crew, they are able to eke out an existence in spite of the vast hardships. At almost the same time, the Invercauld wrecks at the north end of the island. In contrast to the Grafton, most of the 19 surviving crew of the Invercauld quickly succumb to the elements, infighting and a leadership vacuum.

Druett does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together, contrasting a crew working together with a crew in shambles. Her credentials as a historian insure an exhaustive level of research, while her award-winning skills as a novelist ensure that the text is entirely readable. The story moves along nicely and never fails to give the reader a sense of just how precarious the castaways’ plight is. While the book spends perhaps a little too much time describing the multitude of ways to kill a seal and not quite enough time discussing the lives of the castaways after their ordeal, as a whole it is a wonderful effort at delivering a look into a place and time not widely understood. There is also a thorough collection of notes at the end that provide many more factual details. However, its greatest attribute is the way it shines a spotlight on a teachable moment of history – how survival is often determinant on who you are with and how well you work together. If you have any interest in sailing history or stories of survival in the remote reaches of the world, this is a great book to have. ( )
2 vote csayban | Sep 13, 2009 |
Utterly fascinating -- and mind-boggling. ( )
  stephaniechase | Aug 24, 2009 |
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Epigraph
It has seldom fallen to our lot as journalists to record a more remarkable instance of escape from the perils of shipwreck, and subsequent providential deliverance from the privations of a desolate island, after two years' sojourn, than that we have now to furnish. -Southland News, July 29, 1865

The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. -Ovid
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For Roberta McIntyre, whose early encouragement could not have been more well timed.
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It was October 1863, early springtime in Sydney, Australia.
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Auckland Island is a godforsaken place in the middle of the Southern Ocean, 285 miles south of New Zealand. With year-round freezing rain and howling winds, it is one of the most forbidding places in the world. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death. 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, plaguede by stinging blowflies and relentless rain, Captian Musgrave-rather than succumb to this dismal fate-inspires his men to take action. With barely more than their bare hand, they build a cabin and, remarkably, a forge, whre they manufacture their tools. Under Musgrave's leadership, they band together and remain civilized through even the darkest and most trerrifying 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; sime die of starvation, other turn to cannibalism. Only three surviver. 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.
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Telling the true story of two similar shipwreck tragedies that have drastically different outcomes, award-winning maritime historian Druett tells a gripping cautionary tale about leadership, endurance, human ingenuity, and the tenuous line between order and chaos.… (more)

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