March 29th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The truth about Australia's birth rate

EDITORIAL: NSW electricity to be privatised?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Opposition needs new policies, not stunts

WATER: Time to build new reservoirs

QUARANTINE: EI inquiry flags major changes to horse quarantine

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Rudd Government to re-examine FTAs

ENVIRONMENT: Conference rejects climate change alarmism

HIGH SCHOOLS: School: ladder of opportunity or game of snakes and ladders?

HUMAN RIGHTS: Behind Beijing's crackdown in Tibet

UNITED STATES: California court attacks parental rights

DRUGS: Australia's complicity in global drugs menace

UNITED NATIONS: Feminist frolics at the UN

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Muslim attacks forcing Jews out of Paris suburbs / School vouchers flourishing in Sweden / Coal tipped to be world's top energy source

MEDIA: ABC's take on Islamic school controversy

CINEMA: BELLA: A gentle film with a big heart

BOOKS: DARWIN DAY IN AMERICA: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, by John G. West


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by Michael Daniel (reviewer)

News Weekly, March 29, 2008
Harrowing true shipwreck story

by Joan Druett
(Sydney: Allen & Unwin)
Paperback: 304 pages
Rec. price: AUD$26.95

Late 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 were located.

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.

The Julian 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 and Invercauld crews reveal the best and worst aspects of human nature.

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