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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Island of the Lost

Back in 2007, Algonquin published my account of two shipwrecks on an hostile sub-Antarctic island

It was called ISLAND OF THE LOST

One wreck was of the Australian sealer Grafton

The other was of the Aberdeen square-rigger Invercauld

Both ships collided with iron-bound cliffs and rocks on Auckland Island, in the year 1865.  In both cases, the survivors had to grapple with nature to stay alive  And, because of the terrain, neither knew that the other group was there. Both were isolated, to find death or life on their own.

One group did extraordinarily well.  The Grafton survivors, led by their captain, Thomas Musgrave, ably supported by the amazingly resourceful Francois Raynal, built a substantial cabin, established a civilized route that included Bible readings, a school where each man taught his fellow his particular skills (French and mathematics, in the case of Raynal), and eventually built a getaway boat, which was navigated all the way to New Zealand.

The other, after their captain succumbed to depression, descended to chaos and dissension, and perhaps even cannibalism. They were eventually rescued, but only by accident.

It's a cautionary tale, that has inspired many readers.  The book is now used as a text in courses on leadership in American universities.

I get a great deal of fan mail.  But I particularly liked the letter that arrived today.

I don't normally write to authors but I am just finishing up Island of the Lost and wanted to tell you what an incredibly gifted writer I found you to be......I enjoy historical non-fiction, particularly about maritime history, and have read most that has been written by and about Shackleton, Scott, Mawson, etc and this book should be on the same shelf with all of held my attention the entire time, had the right mix of background with on-gong events and efforts of the castaways to remain alive, and was just truly enjoyable........


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