BOOKS:Demon of the Waters, by Gregory Gibsonby Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
, October 5, 2002
Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe
by Gregory Gibson
Little Brown, Rec. price: $49.95Since the 19th century, there has been a fascination with the macabre events associated with the mutiny on the whaling ship, the Globe, in 1824.
This recently composed account was inspired by the discovery in a shop some years ago of the journal composed by Midshipman Augustus Strong, assigned to the American naval ship the Dolphin
, sent out in 1825 to apprehend the surviving mutineers.
Gibson attempts to provide a rationale for the mutiny. The strains under which the crew of the Globe
operated, such as years away from the home port, privations such as poor diet, problems with desertion etc, were typical of other whaling ships.
Gibson suggests that that the master of the Globe's
lack of experience in commanding a vessel, favourable treatment of some crew members and harsh treatment of others contributed to the mutiny; however, the major factor was the unstable personality of the mutiny's leader, Samuel Comstock.
Comstock's background is thus examined at length. It seems that he had a fantasy of seizing a ship through mutiny and sailing it to a remote Pacific island that he would rule.
Comstock's evil genius carefully devised the mutiny that was quickly and efficiently accomplished in a bloodthirsty manner, the captain being murdered by a hatchet used to strip whale blubber.
The ship was then sailed to a remote island in the Mili Atoll, where the crew soon kill Comstock, sensing that he was planning to betray them. A few crew members then seized the ship and successfully sailed it to South America, alerting the American authorities, who sent out the Dolphin
, ostensibly to arrest the conspirators, but also to seek out new trading and whaling grounds. The narrative concludes with the rescue of the two surviving crew members.
Gibson's engaging narrative is enhanced with discussions of the early 19th century American background, particularly that of the lucrative whaling industry that played a significant role in the American economy. Sources used to reconstruct the events surrounding the mutiny are also considered.