“Riveting.” —The New York Times Book Review 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 Musgrave’s schooner, the 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.
In early 1864, heading back to Australia after a failed mining expedition, the crew of the Grafton encountered a violent storm and found themselves shipwrecked in the Auckland Islands, off the coast of New Zealand. Druett, a maritime historian (In the Wake of Madness), draws upon the journals of the ship's captain, Thomas Musgrave, and prospector Fran ois Raynal to reveal how the crew pulled together and made the best of their circumstances for nearly two years. By contrast, when the Invercauld ran aground on the other side of the island months later beyond an impassable mountain range, and hence unaware they were not alone the surviving sailors quickly began eating their dead crewmates out of desperation. Soon, only three remained, the ineffectual captain and another officer being kept alive by a resourceful seaman. Druett tells the two stories in strict chronological order, allowing readers to become familiar with the Grafton party before weaving the Invercauld survivors into the narrative. She zeroes in on the salient details of their ordeals, identifying the plants that kept the castaways from contracting scurvy or sketching out an improvised recipe for soap with equal aplomb. This is a fine addition to the genre of survival tales like Endurance or In the Heart of the Sea. (Jul. 20)