Search This Blog

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Front matter

When they produced the paperback of In the Wake of Madness, Algonquin had a lot of success by printing catchy review quotes on the first couple of pages.

And so, they are repeating this enticing ploy with the front matter of the paperback of Island of the Lost.

Front interior pages

“This story goes reality TV a few steps better . . . A clear morality tale about the pitfalls of rigidity and the benefits of adaptability and cooperation . . . Druett, who has written other works of nautical history and a maritime mystery series, wisely lets the details make the point, resisting the temptation to oversell. Her writing style is clear and detached, her touch just right . . . The power of the crews' divergent stories . . . propels the narrative like a trade wind.”—Los Angeles Times

“An amazing saga . . . Rarely are the two opposing sides of human nature captured in such stark and illuminating relief."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“One of the finest survival stories I've read . . . [Druett's] tale is backed up by a solid knowledge of sailing ships and of the flora, fauna and weather of Auckland Island, an inhospitable terrain that has defied attempts at human settlement and is now a wildlife preserve.”—Seattle Times

A riveting study of the extremes of human nature and the effects of good (and bad) leadership . . . If the southern part of Auckland Island is all Robinson Crusoe, the northern part is more Lord of the Flies . . . Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life . . . [She] shows that real leadership is rare and powerful.”—New York Times Book Review

“Captivating . . . Druett has a talent for storytelling . . . Those yearning for a classic man vs. nature, triumph-over-terrible-odds story, get ready to set sail.”—Paste

“Fascinating . . .a surprisingly gripping tale that will leave readers amazed. Grade: A”—Rocky Mountain News

“The kind of courage and resourcefulness that would do Crusoe proud . . . Druett’s well-researched account earns its place in any good collection of survival literature.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Using diaries, ship logs, and newspaper accounts, Druett re-creates the different experiences of the survivors of two wrecked vessels . . . Viewers of television’s Survivor and readers of survival novels will enjoy Island.”—School Library Journal

“Swashbuckling maritime history reanimated by a noted naval enthusiast . . . Druett excels at recreating the men’s struggles and desperation (tempered by boundless hope) . . . Depicted with consistent brio, stormy seas become epic events.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This is a fine addition to the genre of survival tales like Endurance or In the Heart of the Sea.”—Publishers Weekly

“The amount of detail the author has amassed is truly impressive, resulting in an invaluable account of survival.”—Booklist

“[Druett] writes with a confidence and clarity that makes this account an exciting read and an important addition to our history.”Northern Advocate

Island of the Lost is one of the greatest yarns I’ve ever read, surpassing even Shackleton and Robinson Crusoe.”— South Coast Register

“Survival stories from earlier ages remain favorite fare, as is underscored by this amazing saga by an award-winning New Zealand maritime historian.—The Berkshire Eagle

“It is felicitous that Joan Druett should have found this story.  She is one of our most readable historians.  Her knowledge of maritime events is encyclopedic.  And she can write: vividly, lucidly, accurately … Each of the plot’s two threads is absorbing in itself.  Combined and contrasted, their motif … makes this book more powerful still.”—Weekend New Zealand Herald

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

ISLAND OF THE LOST paperback due next month

Island of the Lost

The Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World

Joan Druett

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 at its worst.

It is 1864, and Captain Thomas Musgave’s schooner, Grafton, has just wrecked on Auckland Island, a forbidding piece of land 285 miles south of New Zealand. Battered by year-round freezing rain and constant winds, it is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death.

Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island, another ship runs aground during a storm. Separated by only twenty miles and the island’s treacherous, impassable cliffs, the crews of the Grafton and the Invercauld face the same fate. And yet where the Invercauld’s crew turns inward on itself, fighting, starving, and even turning to cannibalism, Musgrave’s crew bands together to build a cabin and a forge—and eventually, to find a way to escape.

Using the survivors’ journals and historical records, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett brings to life this extraordinary untold story about leadership and the fine line between order and chaos.

[A] study of the extremes of human nature and the effects of good (and bad) leadership . . . If the southern part of Auckland Island is all Robinson Crusoe, the northern part is more Lord of the Flies . . . Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life . . . [She] shows that real leadership is rare and powerful.”
New York Times Book Review

Friday, June 21, 2019

Whaling wives and deathbeds

Mary Brewster, courtesy Mystic Seaport Museum

Mary Brewster, wife of Captain William Brewster, sailed on the whaleship Tiger of Stonington, Connecticut.  
“The best part of the day I have spent in making doses for the sick and dressing sore hands and feet,” she wrote in July 1846;  “5 sick and I am sent to for all the medicin,” but failed to note what the medicines were.  
Caroline Mayhew, courtesy Martha's Vineyard Historical Society

Another formidable female was Caroline Mayhew, the daughter of a Martha's Vineyard doctor, who was on board the Powhattan in April 1846 when the ship limped into St. Jago, Cape Verde Islands, with eight men down with smallpox.  The port doctor refused to come on board, putting the ship into strict quarantine instead, but Caroline managed to cure them, though she never described her methods. 
Less lucky in a similar situation was Lucy Ann Crapo, wife of the captain of the whaling bark Linda Stewart, which in June 1880 dropped anchor at Talcahuano, Chile, with four sick seamen.  This port doctor did consent to come on board to look at the men, and diagnosed smallpox.  As it turned out, they had a harmless rash—but it killed them all the same, because he sent them to the smallpox ward, where they contracted the disease from the men who were already there.  “The want of knowing one [kind of rash] from the other has made a sad chapter in our voyage,” wrote Lucy Ann.
Inevitably, there were wives who attended deathbeds.  One was Sarah Gray of Liberty Hill, Connecticut, whose sea-going career spanned twenty years, culminating in a voyage on the whaleship James Maury.  The log for March 24, 1865, reads, "Light winds and pleasant weather.  At two PM our Captain expired after the illness of two days at 5 PM."  They were in tropical waters near Guam, and Captain Sluman L. Gray had died of dysentery, after just three days of illness.
Refusing to allow him to be slid into the sea like an ordinary man, Sarah insisted on pickling the corpse, and so the log for the following day reads, "Light winds from the Eastward and pleasant weather, made a cask and put the Capt. in with spirits."  It was a cask that became quite famous.  On June 28th, the James Maury was captured by the Confederate raider Shenandoah.  The Civil War had been resolved eleven weeks earlier, but Captain Waddell, the commander of the raider, refused to believe it, seizing ships and burning them as usual.  Accordingly, when the James Maury was captured, Sarah Gray hysterically expected the worst.  However, Captain Waddell had heard about the cask and the corpse, and had decided to ransom the 'Maury as a gentlemanly gesture. 
Accordingly, 222 prisoners were put on board of the 395-ton ship, and the James Maury was sent off to Honolulu, the cask undisturbed.  With such extreme overcrowding, it must have been a nightmare journey, but somehow, eventually, Sarah got the cask home (the bill for cartage from New Bedford was $11) and buried her husband where he lies today, in the Liberty Hill graveyard.  Local legend has it that he was buried cask and all, but it seems much more likely that the preserved corpse was taken out of the barrel and put into a regular coffin first.

Annie Ricketson, courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum

Unfortunate, too, was Annie Ricketson of Fall River, Massachusetts, who sailed on the Pedro Varela.  In 1885 her husband, Daniel, became very ill with some kind of blood poisoning, Annie recording that “one of his testicles come to a sore and bursted and running badly,” and she was terribly afraid for his life.  The schooner beat head winds to get to Barbados, and Captain Ricketson was carried on shore on a litter, to be treated by two shore doctors.   They gave him ether and cleaned out the abscess in his groin—and drove Captain Ricketson insane.  At that, the two surgeons reverted to more traditional methods, putting a blister plaster on the back of his neck.  “I never felt so bad in my life as I did when I cut that hair off,” Annie wrote, and that page of her journal is still stained with her tears.
After two months of watching this kind of blundering, Annie took her husband back on board, and nursed him until he could walk and talk again.  Then they picked up a boat off Annabon, West Africa, in which three sick men had been set adrift.  Daniel fell ill again, and Annie headed for the Azores—where the schooner was put under quarantine, the port surgeon refusing to come on board.  So Annie put to sea again.  Two days later, her husband died.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Whaling captains and their medicating wives

Told much less often than the tales of medical derring-do are stories of captains who killed their men with a lethal combination of ignorance and officiousness.  
One such was Captain William Cleveland of the Salem, Massachusetts, ship Zephyr.  While at anchor off an island in the notoriously unhealthy Straits of Timor, in 1829, Captain Cleveland overheard a hand named Cornelius Thomson complain that he had felt a little chilly in the night.  On being cross-examined about it, Thomson protested that he felt perfectly well.  Cleveland, however, was determined "to be on the safe & cautious side"—as his wife Lucy put it—and commenced upon a ferocious course of treatment, which started with "a powerful dose of Calomel of Julep," progressed through a "dose of castor oil" and several enema injections to raising blisters "upon the calf of both legs after soaking them well in hot water," and culminated with "a blister on the breast, throat rubbed with linnament &c."  Within hours the poor fellow was delirious, and by morning he was dead.  It was the day after his twenty-first birthday.
Captain Benjamin Morrell of Stonington, Connecticut, had a somewhat bizarre reason for allowing himself to watch his sailors die—that his wife, Abby Jane, was one of the complement on board his schooner Antarctic.  In October 1829 she, along with eleven of the men, fell ill of what he called “the intermittent fever.”  It was, in fact, cholera—not that it made any difference to the outcome.  “Had she not been on board,” he wrote, “I should certainly have borne up to the first port under our lee … But I reflected that some slanderous tongues might attribute such a deviation … solely to the fact of my wife’s being on board. That idea I could not tamely endure … ‘No! perish all first!’ I muttered with bitterness, as I gloomily paced the deck at midnight.”  Morrell medicated the patients with “blisters, friction, and bathing with hot vinegar,” rather than put into port and risk “the unfeeling sarcasms of … carpet-knights.”  Two men died, but the rest recovered, and Morrell’s reputation was safe.
Other American shipmasters found their wives useful, roping them in to help with medical emergencies—to hold a patient’s head while the master of the ship got going with knife and saw, for instance, and also for nursing duties, sickbed work being part of the traditional female realm.  One such was Mary Stickney, wife of Captain Almon Stickney, who sailed on the whaleship Cicero of New Bedford in the years 1880 and 1881, and kept an interesting record of the men she treated.  Sores and boils were common, partly because of working with salty rope and canvas, but also because of micro-organisms which live naturally on the skin of the whale.  Unsurprisingly, mishaps happened when a man lost his balance on the decks or in the rigging.  Cuts and bruises could be due to more than simple accidents—during shipboard fights, for instance, or after after the first mate caught them slacking on duty.  
Mary Stickney failed to describe what she prescribed for all these ailments, merely noting that she had carried “1 Paper box of Medacine” on board, but her journal is eloquent testimony that whaling was a rough life, and a tough one for all on board.  One man, Will Winslow, was very ill indeed, being both feverish and delirious, but was back on lookout at the masthead the instant his head was clear enough to keep his balance—and somehow it is not a surprise, either, to find that Mary was famous for keeping a talking parrot on her shoulder.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Medicating masters on American whalers

American ships did not carry a surgeon.  

Indeed, if the ship displaced less than 150 tons and the crew numbered no more than six, there was not even a requirement to carry a medical chest, meaning that the skipper—the man in charge of shipboard health—did his best by improvising from the pantry, his wife’s sewing box, and the carpenter’s tool chest.  

On whalers—which by definition were overmanned, six men being necessary to crew each boat, and at least four men having to stay on board to keep the ship while the whaleboats were in the chase—a medicine chest was standard, along with a little medical guide.  Whether the medical guide was consulted very deeply is debatable, however, because it was a most unusual whaling master who did not have his own pet remedies, which he used in preference to anything thought up by a so-called professional.

“Remedy for Piles,” wrote the master of the Good Return in 1844:  “take twice a day 20 drops of Balsam Copavia on sugar and a light dose of salts daily and use mercurial ointment on the fundamental extremity”—and signed it “John Swift, MD when necessary.”  According to legend, the amputation of limbs was embarked upon just as lightheartedly—and it does seem that some American whaling masters did remarkably well with their sleeves rolled up and a knife or a saw in their hands.  Tales of their resourcefulness are legion.

One yarn relates the amazing feat accomplished by Captain Charles Ray of the Nantucket whaleship Norman, 1855-1860, whose third mate, Mr. King, was taken out of a boat by a whale, his right foot entangled in the line.  After cutting the poor fellow free, Ray took him on board, cut off the foot above the ankle, sewed the flap—and went back and killed the whale. 

Captain Jim Huntting of Southampton, Long Island faced a similar problem when one of his men got both hand and foot entangled.  Collecting up an armory of carving knife, carpenter’s saw, a fishhook, and a sail needle, Huntting lashed the screaming patient to the carpenter’s bench, dressed the hand and amputated the foot.  He had to keep on summoning new assistants, because the seamen who were ordered to help kept on fainting. 

Trickier still was the challenge faced by a Captain Coffin who was taken down by a line himself, and whose leg was so mangled that it obviously had to go.  So he sent for his pistol and a knife, and then he said to his first mate, “Now sir, you gotta chop off this here leg, and if you flinch, sir, you get shot in the head.”  And Captain Coffin sat as steady as a rock with the pistol aimed as his mate went at it with the knife.  No sooner was the wound dressed and the leg thrown overboard, than both men promptly fainted.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Famous in Micronesia

Quite by accident, I found this review in the Marianas Variety  -- and, having researched Micronesian whaling, piracy, and castaway history many times over the years, it was fun as well as pleasing.

The writer of this piece, BC Cook, PhD, lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.
IF you love stories of sailing, adventure, the vast Pacific, navigation, or other such things I want to introduce you to one of my favorite authors, Joan Druett. She is a New Zealander who has written a couple dozen books over the last twenty years. I have yet to be disappointed.
My introduction to Druett came when I read “Rough Medicine,” the story of ship’s surgeons and the state of the medical field two hundred years ago. It was a fascinating read and Druett is a great story teller. In fact, one of the compliments often repeated is that she writes with such drama and flair that her non-fiction books read more like a novels.
I wanted more so I devoured “In the Wake of Madness,” a blow-by-blow account of the mutiny aboard the whale ship Sharon, one of the most famous and bloody such events to stain the pages of Pacific history. All the usual clichés apply: it is a page-turner, a genuine thriller, a fascinating glimpse into the grim world of nineteenth century whaling at its worst. It is as much a detective story as a chronicle of mutiny, and worth every minute you spend reading it.
I knew that Druett’s reputation as a writer and historian rested largely on her expertise on the subject of women at sea, something very few historians have written about. So I gobbled up “She Captains,” her book about women at sea in the Age of Sail. It was a worthy read, reminiscent of “Hen Frigates,” although I liked “She Captains” more.
By then I was a legitimate member of the Joan Druett fan club (not really, it’s just a figure of speech). I had done my own research on the two shipwrecks on Auckland Island in 1864, in my opinion one of the greatest survival stories of all time and it is criminal that a movie has not been made about it yet. So I was excited to read Druett’s “Island of the Lost.” It made me feel good that I had not written the story myself, although I contemplated it, because I could not have done as fine a job as she did. If you read one book this year make it “Island of the Lost.”
Her latest book is “The Notorious Captain Hayes,” about the infamous Bully Hayes. There is no way to briefly tell the tale of this wretched man, who stole and plundered, swindled and gambled, lied and cajoled his way from one corner of the Pacific to the other. He was a true scoundrel whose legend grew larger than the man, as the press and public couldn’t get enough of his exploits. I can’t wait to read it.
I must admit that I have only read her non-fiction books but she has written many fiction novels. Her detective series, the Wiki Coffin mysteries, are big sellers and it is only a matter of time before I start in on them.
Although she has released books through several companies I want to mention a publishing house that Druett has had a nice relationship with, Old Salt Press. From their website, it is “an independent press catering to those who love books about ships and the sea. We are an association of writers working together to produce the very best of nautical and maritime fiction and non-fiction. We invite you to join us as we go down to the sea in books.”
Give Joan Druett a read, then see what you think of the other authors at Old Salt Press.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gorgeous Faberge tiara

It's for sale...

Rare Historic Fabergé Tiara Of Imperial Russian Provenance Unseen For Century To Sell At Christie's

And I do wonder what it will fetch....

There's also a story.

Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia was forced, at age 18, into an arranged marriage to Friedrich Franz, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in northern Germany, an unhealthy man who was a decade her senior. Her life was embroiled in scandal, resulting from her compulsive gambling, frequent relocation, and a love affair with her male secretary that led to a pregnancy which she covered up with lies about her own health, ranging from a tumor to chicken pox.
Despite her own unfortunate circumstances, she encouraged her son, Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, to marry young, and to commission his wedding gift for Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland, Germany, at her beloved atelier Fabergé in St. Petersburg. A world-renowned discerning Fabergé collector, the Russian grand duchess led a parallel, meticulous and thoughtful life when it came to helping her son select a precious and meaningful heirloom, an elegant, majestic Fabergé tiara composed of nine graduated pear-shaped aquamarines and rose-cut diamonds.
Designed to celebrate a royal marriage, the tiara was created in 1904 with intricate forget-me-not flowers fastened with ribbon bows, to represent true and eternal love, pierced by arrows depicting cupid, the classical mythological god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection.

The tiara isn’t simply a royal jewel, it’s a tremendously important piece of rare historic art from an empire that embodies grandeur and terror with equal zeal.
This work of art of unrivaled provenance will be offered at auction for the first time ever in the Magnificent Jewels sale on May 15 at Christie’s Geneva, the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. The collection will be on view at Christie’s London from April 9-11, and in Geneva from May 10-15. The exquisite tiara is expected to fetch between $230,000 and $340,000. The sale comes more than a century since the tiara was first revealed.
“Tiaras are particularly evocative and romantic jewels and this splendid example having been commissioned by Grand Duke Frederick Francis IV to present his future wife Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland embodies the perfect wedding present," saidAngela Berden, Christie’s Senior Specialist, J ewelry. "This extraordinary provenance is made even more exceptional in the light of records which show the close collaboration between the Grand Duke and Eugène Fabergé (the eldest son of Peter Carl Fabergé) during the tiara’s inception.”

Friday, May 10, 2019

Pigeons on Planes

In the picture above, believe it or not, the two pilots of a seaplane are releasing a pigeon.


Because it was the early days, before radio, and so the only way of communicating with the mother craft was by pigeon!

Read more from the Naval Institute blog:

Admiral Alfred Melville Pride‘s early interest in aviation was followed by his enlistment in Naval Reserve for World War I in 1917, aviation training, and brief overseas duty in France. In 1922, Pride joined the commissioning crew of the United State’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley(CV-1), as one of her aviators.
Pride recalled many years later one of the little-known facts about the earlier carrier—that when the Langley was built equipped with a carrier pigeon loft. Admiral Pride explains why in an edited excerpt below.
Up to the time the Langley was commissioned, every naval air station had carrier pigeons we used to take with us on flights. Before we took off, we went over to the pigeon loft and got a little box with four pigeons in it. Then, if we had a forced landing, of which we had quite a number, we wrote out a message and stuck it in the capsule that was fastened to the pigeon’s leg and let it go. The pigeon flew back to the air station, and they knew where we were, presumably. This had been going on for a long while in the early days of aviation.
Carrier pigeons in pigeon box being handed up to pilot in plane before leaving, U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C. February 12, 1919.
Carrier pigeons in pigeon box being handed up to pilot in plane before leaving, U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C. February 12, 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
The pigeons were kept on the fantail of the Langley in a large room, the pigeon loft. During shakedowns, the pigeon quartermaster—there was such a fellow—would let his pigeons out, one or two at a time, for exercise. They’d leave the ship and fly around, and usually stayed in sight. Pretty soon, they’d come back and land on a little platform connected to a little alarm bell outside the coop. The bell would ring, and the pigeon quartermaster opened the door, and in they’d go.
 Inside view of an up to date Pigeon Loft, Navy's Main Loft at the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C
Inside view of a Navy Pigeon Loft (Naval History and Heritage Command)
One beautiful morning, while in the Chesapeake Bay, anchored off Tangier Island, Commander “Squash” Griffin said to the pigeon quartermaster, “Let them all go.” The pigeon quartermaster demurred a little, but Squash said, “Go ahead, let them all go.” The pigeon quartermaster opened the coop and let all the pigeons out at once. They took off, heading for Norfolk, since they had been trained while the ship was in the Norfolk Navy Yard. All at once, we had no pigeons on the Langley. Pretty soon we got a dispatch from the Navy Yard. I don’t know how Norfolk knew they were ours, but they said, “Your pigeons are all back here. We haven’t got any appropriation for pigeon feed.”
Group of overseas pigeons feeding (French birds). U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C. February 5, 1919.
A group of carrier pigeons in training ca. 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
We put the pigeon quartermaster in a plane and flew him down to Norfolk. He found them all roosting in the crane where we’d been fitting out. After dark, the quartermaster climbed up in the crane and picked them up—it can be done after dark—and took them over to the Naval Air Station. That’s the last we ever saw of pigeons on the Langley. They made the pigeon coop into the executive officer’s cabin, a very nice one, incidentally.
DT-2 landing on the USS Langley (CV-1), 16 January 1925
The USS Langley (CV-1) was the United States’ first aircraft carrier. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)
The Lexington and Saratoga, meanwhile, had been laid down as battle cruisers, each with a nice, big compartment up on the main deck (which was the deck below the flight deck) set aside as the pigeon loft. The Navy deleted the pigeon loft from the plans of the Lexington and Saratoga and made them into berthing compartments. The pigeons were expendable since, by then, our aircraft were carrying wireless. The flying boats had wireless all through World War I, and the ones we used for flying off the battleships had radio in them the first year to transmit our locations. We didn’t get voice on the planes until after World War I.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Sea Trials

Well, here I am  with more on the Alaric Bond "Fighting Sail" series, as promised.  Having read Sealed Orders for the fourth leisurely time, I raced onto my proof copy of Sea Trials, and finished it within two days, having found it almost impossible to put down.

Not only is Sea Trials a page-turner, but it storms on at a cracking pace.  In fact -- as you will be astonished to learn -- it reminded me a great deal of episode three of the eighth season of nothing less than GAME OF THRONES!

This is because episode two of the eighth season of GoT -- currently streaming round the world, to a rapt and fixated billions-fold host of fans -- was relatively quiet.  There was a lot of chat, and character development.  This was very much like Sealed Orders,  the prequel to Sea Trials, perhaps because of the evolution of the dramatis personae.  A major player in this exploration of the characters crewing Mistral was a shady cove by the name of Russell, who was pressed into the navy after being uncloaked as a crook, but who carried on to become a promisingly likeable person.  I do so love Bond's depiction of the ordinary jacks of the lower deck, giving them a voice that no other writer in the genre has managed.  And his development of this gutter rat into a decent seaman was truly exceptional.

But back to Game of Thrones, and why I was reminded of the current series as I raced through the pages of Sea Trials.  Episode three of the eighth season of GoT is mostly a cracking battle, perhaps the best battle of all the series.  Sea Trials has more than one battle (and there are no dragons), but the actions follow so closely upon each other that the story reads like one vast conflict, with Captain King, in command of the Mistral, seemingly taking on the might of the Napoleonic Navy all by himself.

And with the help, by the way, of  very lowly crew member Russell, whom we left at the end of Sealed Orders minus a leg.  At the time the budding able seaman's only ray of hope was the assurance of the job of cook.  It was traditional in the British Navy, you see, for chaps who lost a hand or leg -- and therefore could not mount the rigging -- to turn to the galley stove instead.  And this is where Russell ended up -- but with unexpected results.  Not only did every jack on board loathe his cooking, but he proved to be a capable hand at ....

But I leave it to you to find out.  Buy the book to solve the mystery, and you certainly won't be sorry.