BOOKS: by Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
ISLAND OF THE LOST by Joan Druett
, March 29, 2008
Harrowing true shipwreck storyISLAND OF THE LOST
by Joan Druett
(Sydney: Allen & Unwin)
Paperback: 304 pages
Rec. price: AUD$26.95Late in 1863 the schooner Grafton set sail from Sydney to the remote Auckland Island, some 300 hundred miles south of New Zealand. Early in January 1864, soon after arrival, the ship foundered and was shipwrecked on the island. All five seamen, including the captain, survived.
This was the beginning of an extraordinary story of survival. Coincidentally, in May 1864, another ship, the Invercauld,
was to founder just 20 miles around the coast from where the survivors of the Grafton
Joan Druett, a renowned, award-winning maritime historian, reconstructs the parallel and contrasting survival stories and rescues of the crews of the respective ships.
Whereas the Grafton
's crew worked as a team and developed effective strategies for survival, the Invercauld
's crew soon became dysfunctional as members competed against each other for assets to aid their survival.
Soon after the Grafton
shipwreck, its crew largely abandoned their rank structure for a more democratic one and worked together as a team. They built a shelter, to which they made continual improvements; kept themselves alive, largely by eating seals; and salvaged what they could from the ship.
To stave off despair, they undertook additional activities such as maintaining a journal and reading aloud in the evenings.
By contrast, the Invercauld
officers insisted on upholding their rank structure. As a result, the crew became unco-operative. Instead of working together as a team, they degenerated to the point where it largely became each man for himself.
Some crew members died of starvation. Others tried to avoid sleep for fear they might be killed by other survivors. Thus, when they were finally rescued by a passing ship, the Julian,
only three of the original crew were still alive, and this largely because of the efforts of one of the sailors.
made no further search of the island, with the consequence that the Grafton
survivors were left to continue their quest for survival.
Druett continues the narrative by describing how Captain Thomas Musgrave and the other Grafton
survivors ingeniously constructed a seaworthy boat, in which three of the five men successfully sailed to New Zealand, arriving at the end of July 1865, to organise the rescue of the other two.Island of the Lost
is a book that is difficult to put down. It a fascinating account of survival and despair against extremely challenging odds. The contrasting behaviours of the Grafton
crews reveal the best and worst aspects of human nature.