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, 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.
Joan Druett is a maritime historian and the award-winning author of several books, including Petticoat Whalers, She Was a Sister Sailor, Hen Frigates, Tupaia, and The Discovery of Tahiti. Her interest in maritime history began in 1984, when she discovered the grave of a young American whaling wife while exploring the tropical island of Rarotonga; she subsequently received a Fulbright fellowship to study whaling wives in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California. Her ground-breaking work in the field of seafaring women was also recognized with a L. Byrne Waterman Award. She is married to Ron Druett, a maritime artist.