Great Kiwi Classic Nomination: Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the End of the World, by Joan Druett

Available in bookstores now. ISLAND OF THE LOST.indd

Read the true story of a group of whalers shipwrecked on the remote Auckland Island in 1894 and marvel at their dramatic escape.

This book tells a phenomenal tale of survival on the barren island with year round freezing rain and howling winds, how the whalers worked together to build shelter, catch food, and eventually escape by building a boat to sail across the dangerous southern ocean to New Zealand. Little did they know that across the other side of the island, another group of 19 whalers were also shipwrecked and instead of working together, succumbed to chaos and only three survived.

This is still one of my favourite books of all time, the comparison between the two groups of whalers and how the right attitude and working together can make the difference between life and death – it’s still the theme that I remember, years after reading the book the first time.

Written by award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett from survivors’ journals and historical records, this is a captivating read and also makes a great present to the adventurers in your family.  Highly recommended.

Recommended and reviewed by Amie Lightbourne.

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the End of the World
by Joan Druett
Published by Allen & Unwin (2007)
ISBN 9781741753684

Email digest: Wed 8 August 2012

This is a digest of our Twitter feed that we email out most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sign up here for free if you’d like it emailed to you.

Tonight New Holland are launching a unique collection of travel writings by New Zealanders – click the link to the see… 

Book News
Here are the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards Judges’ Notes

Just talked to the Sunday Star Times and the short story competition is “in development” – will definitely happen in 2012.

Situations Vacant
Victoria University is advertising a lectureship in creative writing 

New releases
“Please sort through Mark’s responses to Damian’s suggestions to Mark’s responses to my queries about Jane and… 

New release book: Houses of Stone by David Bateman

From around the internet
Excellent use of the word literally by Joan Druett “Capital Times and Tupaia: Writer falls into the past” 

Book review: Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett

This book is in stores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

As remarkable as this sounds, when I first travelled to Australia, at the age of 20, I was taken aback to find that there were a number of James Cook monuments, hotels and the like. And that Joseph Banks was responsible for naming all of their plants too! The problem is that you only know what you know, and what you are taught and exposed to.

In my case, post-colonial views of history that seem to only focus on the New Zealand aspects of the voyages, and have removed, or at the very least diminished, certain key history makers from the stories. Tupaia, a noble Polynesian who encountered Captain James Cook in the Tahiti Islands and set sail with him on his journey south aboard the Endeavour, is one of them.

Joan Druett clearly sees Tupaia as an extraordinary man whom European history books have not served well. She clearly likes and respects her main character and yes, this biography does read at times like a story – a compelling story too. Druett sets the tone for her book early on when writing about Tupaia:

“… he was Tahiti’s highest priest. Then the canoe without an outrigger arrived.”
Immediately Druett had my attention and she held it until the end.

That the Crew of the Endeavour were not the first Europeans to meet Tupaia was probably “lost in translation”. But, in reality, by the time Cook and Banks arrived, Tupaia had already met and traded with another crew of Englishmen, and a French contingent led by Louis De Bouganville.

Regardless of these prior meetings, the meeting of the Endeavour crew on April 11, 1769 was momentous since as Druett puts it “the expectations of all on board had reached a pitch of excitement.” They could never have anticipated that they would sail away with local men on board, who would prove to be crucial for Cook’s navigation of both the South Pacific seas and its people and customs.

You know what happened next – the Endeavour crew sailed south to New Zealand. Tupaia, according to Druett’s meticulous research was a key figure on the boat, but he succumbed to illness before arriving back to England, and was almost forgotten in the public aftermath. Almost.

This engaging book, has made me reflect on the facts of the Cook voyages; reminding me that there were dozens of people either on board, or that the crew encountered on these great voyages of discovery. Tupaia was just one of them – a translator, astronomer, navigator, artist, mapmaker, geographer – one of a number of remarkable men of the time. And this is his story.

Reviewed by Gillian Torckler

Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator
By Joan Druett
Random House NZ
9781869793869 (Hardback)
9781869797133 (Paperback)