Island of the Lost, which contrasts the outcomes of two shipwrecks on Auckland Island in 1864, is proving very popular right now. Indeed, it is a bestseller in the sea stories genre, particularly in America and Canada. But still it was a surprise to be invited to talk on the Constant Wonder program, hosted by Marcus Smith on BYU radio.
And it proved to be a great pleasure, too. Marcus is an affable, eloquent, and perceptive host, whose questions were remarkably thoughtful.
He was very interested in the relative sizes of the two castaway groups. The party where all survived comprised only five -- the captain, Thomas Musgrave, the supercargo, Francois Raynal, and three seamen -- while the other party, where only three lived to tell the tale, originally numbered nineteen. One would have thought that the small number of the Musgrave party would have had a harder time of it, with so much to do to keep them housed, warm, fed, and clothed. Between them, they built a sturdy hut complete with furniture, formed hunting parties for food, cooked in a well-made hearth, kept the place clean, made soap, dug tanning pits for curing sealion leather, built a forge, burnt charcoal for fuel, and then built a getaway boat. And in the evenings they taught each other their skills and languages, as well as reading the Bible.
The nineteen who struggled ashore from the other ship managed absolutely nothing like that. Indeed, they had the advantage of finding an abandoned whaling settlement, complete with ruins of a house, and a garden. But instead of trying to keep together as a functioning group, they went their own way ... and starved. There may have been murders, and there was at least one instance of cannibalism.
So the greater number did not help.
Today, can we take any lessons from this contrast in leadership and unity? Well, that is up to the reader to decide.
You can listen to me chatting with Marcus Smith here.