Island of the Lost by Joan Druett

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Seriously, stories like this are why I didn’t go in the navy.

Quick synopsis: The story of the shipwreck of the Grafton on the Auckland Islands in 1864. Oh, it’s also the story of the shipwreck of the Invercauld on those same islands just a few months later in 1864. Yes, really.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The highest point in the Auckland Islands is Mount Dick. Stop laughing, you child.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: This is a crazy story because you have two separate shipwrecks on the same island chain just months from each other. The most amazing part? Neither of the shipwreck crews even knew about the other.

My Take: This book (and Mike Dash’s Batavia’s Graveyard) made me fall in love with reading history again. What makes this book amazing is that it is a story of two shipwrecks, survival, and the importance of good leadership.

The shipwrecks are the most straightforward sections. Each ship gets too close to the Auckland Islands which are a few hundred miles south of New Zealand. The captains of the Grafton and Invercauld react very differently both during the wreck and afterwards. This directly leads to a fight for survival and the most interesting aspect of the book, leadership in crisis. The actions of each captain are polar opposites and cause dire consequences. One shows how to keep men motivated and hopeful during 18 months of isolation culminating in a desperate attempt to make it home. The other captain becomes morose and distant. His lack of leadership leads to the death of most of his crew.

Druett understands the sea and what these men go through. If you don’t like this genre of book, then it will seem to crawl in places. However, if you like survival stories, you will recognize that Druett is showing how desperate and monotonous the fight to live can be. I was riveted.

Verdict: I love this book. It may not be for the casual reader, but for anyone interested in shipwrecks, survival, and leadership, this is a must read.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Peter Stark, Astoria
  • Caroline Alexander, The Bounty
  • Alfred Lansing, Endurance
  • Jennifer Niven, The Ice Master
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea
  • Stephen Brown, Island of the Blue Foxes
  • Buddy Levy, River of Darkness
  • Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard
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Island of the Lost by Joan Druett
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