Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

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Overview

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, ...

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Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

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Overview

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—rather than succumb to this dismal fate—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. Under Musgrave's leadership, they band together and remain civilized through even the darkest and most terrifying days.

Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island—twenty miles of impassable cliffs and chasms away—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, they also plan their own astonishing escape, setting off on one of the most courageous sea voyages in history.

Using the survivors' journals and historical records, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett brings this extraordinary untold story to life, a story about leadership and the fine line between order and chaos.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
"Joan Druett makes a name for herself as a sort of distaff Patrick (The Yellow Admiral) O'Brian."
Booklist
"The amount of detail the author has amassed is truly impressive, resulting in an invaluable account of survival."
— George Cohen
New York Times Book Review
"A riveting study of the extremes of human nature and the effects of good (and bad) leadership. . . . If the southern part of Auckland Island is all Robinson Crusoe, the northern part is more Lord of the Flies. . . . Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life . . . [She] shows that real leadership is rare and powerful." —The New York Times Book Review
Los Angeles Times
"This story goes reality TV a few steps better. . . . A clear morality tale about the pitfalls of rigidity and the benefits of adaptability and cooperation. . . . Druett, who has written other works of nautical history and a maritime mystery series, wisely lets the details make the point, resisting the temptation to oversell. Her writing style is clear and detached, her touch just right. . . . The power of the crews' divergent stories... propels the narrative like a trade wind."—L.A. Times
Seattle Times
"One of the finest survival stories I've read. . . . [Druett's] tale is backed up by a solid knowledge of sailing ships and of the flora, fauna and weather of Auckland Island, an inhospitable terrain that has defied attempts at human settlement and is now a wildlife preserve."—Seattle Times
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
An "amazing saga . . . Rarely are the two opposing sides of human nature captured in such stark and illuminating relief."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Rocky Mountain News
"Fascinating . . . a surprisingly gripping tale that will leave readers amazed. Grade: A."—Rocky Mountain News
News & Observer
"A compelling fact-upon-fact style that lets the men's incremental accomplishments and unlikely survival supply the drama."—News & Observer
Booklist - George Cohen
"The amount of detail the author has amassed is truly impressive, resulting in an invaluable account of survival."
From the Publisher
"A compelling fact-upon-fact style that lets the men's incremental accomplishments and unlikely survival supply the drama."—News & Observer
Florence Williams
Constructing a reliable story out of memoirs is a challenge. Many of the survivors wrote their accounts years afterward. But Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life. If you ever wanted to know how to kill an 800-pound seal with a cudgel, read this book. Even better, the men have a flair for narrative. Sometimes they must eat tough old seals, which Captain Musgrave describes as almost inedible. Yet, "hunger is certainly a good sauce," he writes in his journal, along with "This is picnicking in reality."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In early 1864, heading back to Australia after a failed mining expedition, the crew of the Graftonencountered a violent storm and found themselves shipwrecked in the Auckland Islands, off the coast of New Zealand. Druett, a maritime historian (In the Wake of Madness), draws upon the journals of the ship's captain, Thomas Musgrave, and prospector François Raynal to reveal how the crew pulled together and made the best of their circumstances for nearly two years. By contrast, when the Invercauldran aground on the other side of the island months later—beyond an impassable mountain range, and hence unaware they were not alone—the surviving sailors quickly began eating their dead crewmates out of desperation. Soon, only three remained, the ineffectual captain and another officer being kept alive by a resourceful seaman. Druett tells the two stories in strict chronological order, allowing readers to become familiar with the Graftonparty before weaving the Invercauldsurvivors into the narrative. She zeroes in on the salient details of their ordeals, identifying the plants that kept the castaways from contracting scurvy or sketching out an improvised recipe for soap with equal aplomb. This is a fine addition to the genre of survival tales like Enduranceor In the Heart of the Sea. (Jul. 20)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Alice F. Stern
In 1864, five men were shipwrecked on Auckland Island, nearly three hundred miles from New Zealand. Through cooperation, resourcefulness, and gruelingly difficult work, the men managed to keep themselves fed, sheltered, and alive for two years until they had built a boat and were able to send some of their party out to reach civilization and stage a rescue for the others. At the same time, another ship wrecked at the other end of the island, leaving nineteen survivors. By the time they were rescued, they were down to three. Using diaries and other resources, Druett tells a detailed and graphic account of life on the island. Her research is meticulous. Readers will learn how the men found food, created clothing and shoes, built a house and a boat, and how they got themselves through the boredom and despair. Just as significantly, Druett also shows how two groups in such similar circumstances could approach their predicaments in completely different ways. Fans of shipwreck stories will devour this book as will other adventure-story lovers. And for those whose knowledge of such things has been gleaned from ersatz television programs, this novel will be a real eye-opener. It will booktalk itself.
Kirkus Reviews
Swashbuckling maritime history reanimated by a noted naval enthusiast. Mystery writer and nautical historian Druett (Run Afoul, 2006, etc.) does great justice to the saga of two large ships, the Grafton and the Invercauld, both shipwrecked on the same remote South Pacific island in 1864. The first vessel, navigated by French gold miner Francois Raynal and skilled captain Thomas Musgrave, embarked on an adventurous, intrepid voyage southeast of Australia toward Campbell Island to collect a cache of silver-laden tin. Through hurricanes and sea squalls, the Grafton reached the island, but a sudden illness and inclement weather forced the ship to attempt a return to Sydney. In his journal, Musgrave wrote that on the journey home, the sea looked "as if it were boiling." Swallowed by an immense storm, the schooner was pounded into the jagged reefs of uninhabited Auckland Island. Its crew scrounged for shelter and food (sea lion and bird flesh, pungently described) ashore, with a plumb view of the Grafton's rain-soaked wreckage looming as a grim reminder. Through months of navigating rugged terrain, fighting raw conditions and swarms of stinging sand flies, the castaways worked together utilizing wood from the ship's hull to erect a cabin. Meanwhile, Scottish square-rigger Invercauld, bound for South America with a crew of 25, was being ripped apart by the perilous reefs on the other side of Auckland Island. After a year and a half, the resourceful Grafton crew built a small vessel and sailed to New Zealand; the Invercauld crew, whittled down to three survivors, had to be rescued by a passing Spanish vessel. Druett excels at recreating the men's struggles and desperation (tempered by boundlesshope) with extensive quotations from their journals. She also offers engaging biographical information on the castaways, descriptions of the island's animal population and general historical detail. Depicted with consistent brio, stormy seas become epic events. Agent: Laura Langlie/Laura Langlie
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124080
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/8/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 212,858
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Native New Zealander JOAN DRUETT is the author of eleven books on maritime history and historical fiction. She has been the recipient of a PEN/Hubert Church Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and the John Lyman Award for Best Book of American Maritime History. She was a consultant for the award-winning "Seafaring Women" exhibition and has appeared as a guest speaker at maritime museums across the country. While much of her research is carried out in the United States, she lives in Wellington, New Zealand, with her husband, Ron.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Review of Island of the Lost written by Joan Druett

    This non-fiction book, Island of the Lost, written by Joan Druett shows the extreme measures of diversity in sudden tragedy. It is a great read for the journey to survival. In 1864 two crews and their ships were shipwrecked on one of the cold and treacherous Auckland Islands. Having been stranded on the opposite sides of the island, neither crew knew each other were there. Druett does an outstanding job of separating the ideas of two very different crews and how they interact with each other. On their journey to find the scarce Sea lions killed and skinned for their coats and oil, Captain Musgrave and his crew of four found the jackpot. In their excitement they would have never guessed they would be castaways in the near future. In a hurry to get back to Sydney for more crew and supplies, the ship, the Grafton, had been anchored in a position that worried the captain. Because of a tide and nearby storm the crew found themselves scrambling for theirs goods and swimming to shore. The next crew to become castaways was sailing in the ship called Invercaul, which was lead by Captain George Dalgarno. Coming from Melbourne, the group of twenty-five was headed to South America. Just about three hundred miles from New Zealand, they knew they were close to the Auckland Islands however, they didn¿t know just how close they were. With rainy, windy weather the crew shouted, ¿Land O,¿¿ just in time for the ship to be caught in what was later known as the ¿Jaws of Hell,¿ one of the most dangerous coasts in the world. Only nineteen survive to make it to shore, but how long can they last stranded on an icy, unbearable island? For almost two very long years, these separated crews fight for their lives. The diversity is clearly shown between the two captains as they are tested with their true leadership, and ability to keep their men alive. Although he appears to be a descent captain on board, Dalgarno¿s integrity and patients are truly tested with his crew on Auckland Island. On his side of the Island situations weren¿t as simple as they were with Captain Musgrave. Captain Dalgarno and his nineteen men did not have an unproblematic way of finding shelter and having peace with each other. Although they found a deserted village their attempts of recreating a functional society failed almost instantly. Circumstances became so out of control men began to die, and it even lead to cannibalism, leaving only three out of nineteen men. With Captain Musgrave and his five men, however, conditions ran smoothly as the men worked hard to build a cabin and manufacture their own tools. Eventually they found and created enough supplies to build a vessel in which all five men returned home. Obviously the two captains handled situations differently under the terrifying circumstances. Also the fact that Captain Dalgarno had a crew of nineteen and Captain Musgrave only had five men might have an impact on the way this state of affairs ended. With more men there is more of a chance for opinions and personalities to clash. When there are only five men involved, I assume it would much easier to have a civilized relationship between those men. Druett did a wonderful job of describing the difference between these two leaders and their crew. I highly recommend this book for a good read. It is an intelligent and exciting book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2009

    A great story of survival in the remote reaches of the world

    "Hundreds of miles from civilization, two ships wreck on opposite ends of the same deserted island in this true story of human nature at its best - and its worst.

    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."
    -Island of the Lost

    So begins Joan Druett's book, Island of the Lost - Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World. It is a tale that would seem implausible, if not for the fact that it is all absolutely true. In 1864, near the end of the age of sail, two separate ships did indeed wreck along the coast of Auckland Island - a tiny sliver of land sticking out of the forbidding Southern Ocean - a place that remains uninhabited to this day. By piecing together logbooks, memoirs, newspaper accounts and Druett's own personal trips to the desolate island, she is able to create a vivid account of two divergent stories of survival. The schooner Grafton and its crew of five wrecks at the southern end of the island. Through inspired leadership and the camaraderie of the whole crew, they are able to eke out an existence in spite of the vast hardships. At almost the same time, the Invercauld wrecks at the north end of the island. In contrast to the Grafton, most of the 19 surviving crew of the Invercauld quickly succumb to the elements, infighting and a leadership vacuum.

    Druett does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together, contrasting a crew working together with a crew in shambles. Her credentials as a historian insure an exhaustive level of research, while her award-winning skills as a novelist ensure that the text is entirely readable. The story moves along nicely and never fails to give the reader a sense of just how precarious the castaways' plight is. While the book spends perhaps a little too much time describing the multitude of ways to kill a seal and not quite enough time discussing the lives of the castaways after their ordeal, as a whole it is a wonderful effort at delivering a look into a place and time not widely understood. There is also a thorough collection of notes at the end that provide many more factual details. However, its greatest attribute is the way it shines a spotlight on a teachable moment of history - how survival is often determinant on who you are with and how well you work together. If you have any interest in sailing history or stories of survival in the remote reaches of the world, this is a great book to have.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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