Friday, April 8, 2016

Island to the Lost

From New Zealand's Maritime Museum
Book: Island to the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
Author: Joan Druett
Edition:Hardback from the Mountain View Public Library
Read:April 9, 2016
284 pages
Genre:  History, Biography
Rated: 3.5  out of 5

Two shipwreck stories, taking place on the Auckland Islands, are told in this book with the concentration on the demise of the Grafton. The other tells the tale of the Invercauld.

The Grafton story talks about the mission of this crew-to find minerals on an island. Finding none, they go on to the Auckland Islands where a storm runs them aground. Things look pretty dismal because of the isolation, the cold and lack of food. The food problem becomes manageable by eating seals. This also provides other things like oil and skins for clothing and other things. Such as after 20 months of survival they build a lightweight craft out of the skins and sail to an island off of New Zealand. Where they are received and rescue the other two survivors. All of the five crew members survive both the shipwreck and the ordeal.

During the time when the Grafton crew is on the Auckland Island, the Invercauld runs aground on a different part of the island.  So the two crews never see each other. While the Invercauld's crew landed in a much more hostile area they are not as resourceful as the Grafton. Consequently all but three of the crew die-the Captain, the second mate and one seaman. The officers are worthless. Without the seaman all would have died. If others had followed the seaman, more would have survived. They are eventually rescued by a passing boat.

As I read the book, the thought of Would I be able to survive in a situation and as long as they did? continued to run through my mind. My guess is no. I become squeamish about killing things and that would have been the only way to survive.  On the other hand I think I would have done ok at other basic survival skills. But the Raynal far exceeded my abilities at creativeness.

Killing of seals-both hunting and needing to survive. Efficiency in killing a seal: club it over the nose, between the eyes where the skull is its thinnest. Gory stuff.

In chapter 12, the crew of the Grafton makes the discovery of a rudder and some planks. But Druett will not tie the pieces together for us and say that these came from the Invercauld.  But there is there a clear tie in from how she tells her story?

It was hard work ... that saved them from brooding over their miserable fate and giving way to depression. (chp 9) Also Raynal says that the projects left us little leisure to think of our misfortunes. This is the kind of stuff I like in a book. Where you are given pause to think. Usually we humans shy away from hard work. But here Raynal recognizes that hard work has its virtues. It draws your mind away from worries and gets your body to take over. Of course, in this case it is a matter of survival. Also work which breaks a person and their spirit does not fall into this benefit. But it is worthwhile remembering the above when comforting someone. Get them involved.

Raynal notes when faced with what appears to be a human appeal from a young seal pup for mercy, We were much moved and hesitated long; greatly tempted to spare them, yet forced by necessity to obey reason rather than sentiment.  (ch 10) What does rationality have to do with survival? Maybe if you can look at things of either this seal dies or I die. But I think Raynal is trying to read to much enlightenment into survival.
Druett takes her sources from many places and tries to reconcile them. She notes in many places where the sources do not match ad she speculates about which one is correct or is at least more plausible. This is good because she has examined much of the source material -she also makes it sounds like it would be a good thing to read some of the journals.

But where she crosses a line is in some places she tries to fill in the gaps because what the journals say and things she imagines must have happened. In itself, this is not a bad thing. But because Druett does a good job of researching out things, you are lead to believe these fill in materials are also part of the record. This is the kind of thing I fear from historical fiction, which this is not.


  • Leadership, organization, knowledge, skill and innovation win out over numbers and resources. Druett shows this through her comparison of outcomes between the Grafton and the Invercauld. While there was a power structure where the captan was in charge on the Invercauld, he did not performed and used it as a means of saying everyone should serve him.
  • But Musgrave of the Grafton while wanting his men to honor his position was willing to work with the men, recognizing their strengths and being one with them. There was a community with a leader rather than a dictator. Musgrave would be a good example.
  • There is another component as well. The men needed to follow. Musgrave's willingness to work with them allowed them to feel respected. So they willingly followed him. This partnership allowed them to survive.
  • Raynal had a catholic faith which helped him in times of despair. He also had experience fixing things, including making bellows, as well as a good mind to figure things out. He could bring men together to help point them in the right direction.
  • Musgrave was subject to melancholy. He knew how to lead. Also had a good head on his shoulder which allowed him to make the right moves.

If you like a shipwreck of a book, this is book is for you. It traces two ships which ran aground on Aukland Island. Druett does a good job of telling the stories of how the crews of the Grafton and the Invercauld survived. These stories are told from the journals of the main people from each ship.

As a good storyteller, she makes the characters have personalities you can follow. But in some ways, that is her weakness. She inserts into her characters motives and actions which are not there in the journals. Still, you could spend your time in lot worse ways than reading The Island of the Lost.

Notes from my book group:
At our OSHER group, we were asked to supply some questions.My questions are:

1) If you were thrown into a situation of survival, how would you do? What attitude would you have?

2) What is the differences made it so the crew of the Grafton was able to survive vs the crew of the Invercauld dies, except for three people? How did the social structure of each ship affect the outcome?

New Words:
  • hawse pipe (chp 3): the pipe passing through the bow section of a ship that the anchor chain passes through
  • binnacle (chp 2): a built-in housing for a ship's compass
  • scudded (chp 3): move fast in a straight line because or as if driven by the wind

Book References:
  • Albert Cook Church Whale Ships and Whaling
  • JC Yaldwyn Preliminary Results of the Auckland Islands Expedition 1972-1973
  •  Francois E Raynal Wrecked on a Reef: or, Twenty Months Among the Auckland Isles. A True Story
  •  Thomas Musgrave Castawy on the Aucklands: the wreck of the Grafton, from the private journals of Thomas Musgrave
  •  Madelene Fergueson Allen Wake of the Invercauld
  • Captain Dalgarno Narrative of the Wreck of the "Invercauld" among the Auckland Islands
  • And many more found in the Author's Note

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: It was Octber 1863, early springtime in Sydney, Australia.
  • Last Line: Thomas Musgrave, without a doubt would have thoroughly approved.
Table of Contents:
  • One        A Sturdy Vessel
    Two        Open Sea
    Three        The Islands
    Four        Wrecked
    Five        Shelter
    Six        Prey
    Seven        The Cabin
    Eight        Democracy
    Nine        Routine
    Ten        Dire Necessity
    Eleven        The Jaws of Hell
    Twelve        Privation
    Thirteen    The Hunt
    Fourteen    Equinox
    Fifteen        Summer
    Sixteen        Raynal's Forge
    Seventeen    Boats
    Eighteen    Escape
    Nineteen    Deliverance
    Twenty        A Sentiment of Humanity
    Twenty-one    Rescue
    Twenty-two    Reunion
    Twenty-three    Answers
    Author's Note


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