Auckland Island is a godforsaken place in the middle of the Southern Ocean, 285 miles south of New Zealand. With year-round freezing rain and howling winds, it is one of the most forbidding places in the world. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death.
In 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew of four aboard the schooner Grafton wreck on the southern end of the island. Utterly alone in a dense coastal forest, plagued by stinging blowflies and relentless rain, Captain Musgrave inspires his men to take action. With barely more than their bare hands, they build a cabin and, remarkably, a forge where they manufacture their tools.
Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island, the Invercauld wrecks during a horrible storm. Nineteen men stagger ashore. Unlike Captain Musgrave, the captain of the Invercauld falls apart given the same dismal circumstances. His men fight and split up; some die of starvation, others turn to cannibalism. Only three survive. Musgrave and all of his men not only endure for nearly two years, but they also plan their own astonishing escape, setting off on one of the most courageous sea voyages in history.
This true story, in a perfect example of how fact is stranger than fiction, is a breathtaking journey of perseverance, leadership, strength, and camaraderie. Two parties of sailors are shipwrecked at practically the same time in the foreboding and hopelessly remote Auckland Islands. It is 1863. One group is led by a gifted ships captain and talented first mate; the other cast of wayward souls, just 20 miles away, is essentially abandoned by a weak minded, class-focused fool and his equally shiftless second in command. What unfolds is perhaps one of the greatest lessons ever told on the importance of leadership and teamwork. A master of mental imagery, Joan Druett allows the heroes and villains of this unbelievable story to tell their tales in their own words, using her own wonderful, poetic prose to transport the reader to this island chain of cold and hardship. This is a must read for anyone needing to check out of the modern rat race and feel, see, and hear what really matters most in the world--each other.
119 of 124 people found this review helpful
I did not know prior to reading this that Joan Druett is a very well respected maritime historian but it really shows through in the quality of the book.
I encourage anyone remotely interested in this to listen to the book and avoid doing any research on the historical events themselves until afterwards because I think it makes the story so much more powerful.
I really enjoyed reading and learning about the characters of these events. You really feel that you get to know their personalities and various strengths and weaknesses. Druett did a great job at breaking away from the narrative only rarely to explain certain events in a historical or scientific context (like explaining our understanding of scurvy at the time for instance, or mentioning when it was appropriate some history of the island/islands). I really enjoyed those descriptions because although I was following along with this gripping story I felt I was also learning so much more about a lot of historical topics I would not have otherwise known and felt that they added depth to the story.
Other books I've listened to that I found similar and would also recommend would include: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage (Lansing), Into Thin Air (Krakauer), Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival (King).
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
What a detailed and fascinating recounting of deprivation and dispare, ingenuity and steadfast industry! The men of these shipwrecks displayed their mettle, their cowardice and ultimately their success in making their way by their own efforts to safety. Two shipwrecks, two different manners of coping. The narrator made me think that he was there in some eerie way. His ability to narrate was so helpful, getting the 'manly' emotions just right. Try it, it is a enthralling read.
44 of 49 people found this review helpful
I almost didn't listen to this because some reviews said that it was repetitive and boring.
I thought it was very interesting.
My only complaint was keeping track of the two different crews, which blurred together due to my flittering attention.
By the last 3 chapters I was doing a lot of rewinding to keep track of what was going on as the subjects and their fates changed.
Overall, great book. The issues that I had were totally my fault for not paying attention at times.
62 of 71 people found this review helpful
The resourcefulness and leadership of one crew as measured by the end result of their ordeal is remarkable. Page turning.
24 of 27 people found this review helpful
In the 1860's, five men get shipwrecked off an island 200 miles from New Zealand. Conditions are horrific. This is the story of the castaways. Detailed journals make this book so engaging. And then it turns out another ship crashes off the other side of the island. One group is disciplined and works hard as a team; the other does not. The result is a fascinating set of stories. History came alive for me in this book. The narrator was excellent. I liked this book a lot!
16 of 18 people found this review helpful
A wonderful story of survival and ingenuity. The narration performance was a little distracting at first and turned me off initially, but I gradually got used to the reader.
27 of 34 people found this review helpful
In the spirit of being fair, or was it trying to convince myself I liked this book...I've done the due diligence and read about this author. I've at least Wiki'ed Captain Thomas Musgrave, and the Grafton, the Invercauld, and the Auckland Islands. In just minutes, I was able to read in a condensed format, much of the same substantive information Druett draws on for this novel. That's never a good sign to me; it's the equivalent of a book summary that tells the whole story, leaving little reason to endure hours of what becomes repetition and randomness. My conclusions after a little web-surfing were that Druett's research included a few interesting details not found in my quick skim, she emphasizes the importance good leadership, and she primarily relies on repeating a list of activities:
*escaping death, we pulled ourselves out of the sea;
we saw a seal, killed it and ate it;
with teamwork, we built a cozy cabin;
we bludgeoned to death a cumbersome pregnant seal and ate her;
today we rationed the last of our ship-bread and found edible herbs on the island;
seal pups have soft skulls and easy to kill with a single cudgel blow between the eyes;
the potatoes we planted won't grow in this thick peat;
after listening to the mournful cries of a mama seal (whose newborn pup we snatched up and boiled with a few herbs last week) we finally had to club the noisy cow to death and dry the meat;
the stormy ocean is loud and the winds ceaseless;
seal pups are easy to catch and are tender and delicious, fat from nursing on their mother's rich milk *... [not quotes]
A nauseating focus on the seal slaughter. The author only alludes to the cannibalism that occurred with the Invercauld crew that had crashed and washed ashore only miles away, yet seems gruesomely obsessed with the details of killing and eating the seals.
I'm not oblivious to the fact that this is survival, folks, but what purpose does this focus on the cruelties serve in a tale of supposed endurance and heroism? Are the details, down to the lingering taste of oil in a *seal-burp,* crucial to the history? Did the survivors actually fill diaries with their callous observations on killing seals, writing (as she notes) in seal blood once the ink ran out? In one account, with the rafters full of drying seal meat and their bellies full, the hunters resort to poking out the eyes of the seals, the resulting blindness making it difficult for the seals to escape back into the ocean the next time the hunters come to pick them off the beaches (where they come to give birth). I just couldn't chalk this practice up to ingenuity. You know you don't like the characters, or even the admire the supposed *hero,* when the seals finally stop showing up on the island and you start cheering for the men to hurry up and starve.
Initially, I felt unjust focusing on Druett focusing on the killing of the seals, admitting that I'm soft hearted. But reading Moby Dick, The North Water, Alone on the Ice and countless other books where animals didn't fare well matched against the survival of man, I've never encountered anything so relentless, and so confusing. Maybe Ahab.
Though gruesome and gratuitous, the slaughter of the seals wasn't the lone reason for me limiting my awarded stars. The two I gave were justified by the accounts of resourceful strategies, adding tar to stripped mast threads, the making of lye for soap, fashioning tools for different necessary trades, the bravery involved with discovering which plants were edible. These accounts, told by the men through their journals, were impressive. Additionally, the spirit of stewardship that made survival possible in the harsh conditions were moments of mankind at its best. But, this is not historical nonfiction retold in the entertaining and meticulously researched style of a David McCullough or Erik Larson. This story doesn't feel dimensional, just reported, and therefore lacks the heft of a time and place in history. The Auckland Islands, the unhospitable *Edge of the World* and one of the enticements in the book's summary, seemed minimized. The characters felt confined not only to the island, but by the author's lack of developing their individual stories, reduced themselves to characteristics rather than human beings. Everything about this book seemed eclipsed by the graphic kills and butchering of seals.
I'll be in the minority on this one. It's possible I'm tough on Druett, and history buffs might appreciate that the facts weren't embellished to the point of fictionalizing this piece of history. I never got the feeling of being enveloped in history, experiencing an epic struggle between mankind and nature, never felt buoyed by one man's accomplishment in rallying his troops to soldier on, or even felt threatened by the severity of the island. Though the men began to unravel, the darkest possibilities that other histories warn us reside deep in mankind, opportunely surfacing in the worst of times to cast shame on our species, felt like sluggish threats -- nothing a good meal of warm greasy seal pup meat couldn't keep at bay for a few more days.
Island of the Lost felt like an uninspiring, unimportant blip on the radar of History. I suppose it would be a very bad pun to close with...this left a bad taste in my mouth.
38 of 49 people found this review helpful
This is a well-researched true story of the almost unimaginable hardships faced when a small boat shipwrecks on the remote Aukland Islands, south of New Zealand. It's a great and triumphant story that reveals much about the human spirit and the virtues of community and cooperation. The narrator was straightforward and clear. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
i like history but just too dry. I tried cause interesting story. read like school book after awhile....
2 of 2 people found this review helpful