Works

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

HUNDREDS OF MILES FROM CIVILIZATION TWO SHIPS WRECK ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SAME BLEAK DESERTED ISLAND IN A TRUE STORY OF HUMAN NATURE AT ITS BEST -- AND AT ITS WORST.

In January 1864, five seamen from the wrecked schooner Grafton are stranded on an isolated speck of land some 300 miles south of New Zealand. Battling ferocisous winds, relentless freezing rain and an impenetrable coastal forest, their chances of survival are slim. But under the leadership of Captain Thomas Musgrave, they miraculously cling to life for nearly two years before building a vessel and setting off on one of the most courageous sea voyages ever.

Meanwhile, in May 1864, on the same island but twenty miles of impassable cliffs and chasms away, another ship is wrecked and nineteen men struggle ashore. This crew, however, succeumbs to utter anarchy and only three remain to be rescued a year later.

Using the survivors' journals, Joan Druett tells a gripping tale of leadership, endurance, and the fine line between order and chaos.

Tupaia, Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator

He was an expert navigator who drew a chart of the Pacific encompassing 2,500 miles and locating nearly 100 islands totally unknown to Europeans, despite having no experience as a mapmaker. This man was also a translator, an artist, and a high priest, a brilliant orator, and a most devious politician. A European erudite? No, merely the greatest known Polynesian navigator of the 18th century.

Tupaia was the charismatic Polynesian navigator and translator who sailed with Captain James Cook from Tahiti, piloted the Endeavour across the South Pacific, and interceded on behalf of the European voyagers with the warrior Maori of New Zealand. As a man of high social ranking, Tupaia was also invaluable as an intermediary, interpreting local rituals and ceremonies. Joseph Banks, the botanist with Cook's expedition, is famous for describing the manners and customs of the Polynesian people in detail. Much of the credit for this information rightfully belongs to Tupaia--indeed, he could aptly be called the Pacific's first anthropologist.

Despite all this, Tupaia's colorful tale has never been part of the popular Captain Cook legend. This unique book tells the first contact story with Europeans as seen through the eyes of Polynesians and documents how Tupaia's contributions changed the history of the Pacific.

Old Salt Press books

A sub-Antarctic ordeal that created an international controversy, a miscellany of stories of seafaring women in unusually extreme circumstances, and the Nelson-era journal of a captain's wife who dared to sail on an East Indies ship to exotic destinations, through privateer-infested seas.

A Watery Grave

It's 1838, and the U. S. Exploring Expedition, a convoy of ships filled with astronomers, naturalists and sailors, is set to launch from Virginia. Aboard the expedition is linguist Wiki Coffin. Half New Zealand Maori and half American, Wiki's duty is to help the crew navigate the Pacific islands that are his heritage. But just before departure he is arrested for a vicious murder he didn't commit.

The convoy sails off, and hours later Wiki is exonerated, set free to catch up with his ship. The catch: the local sheriff is convinced that the real murderer is aboard the expedition. Wiki is deputized to identify the killer and, against long odds and at perilous risk for the brave young sailor, to ensure that justice is served on the deadly high seas.

Shark Island

Wiki Coffin, linguist aboard the U. S. Exploring Expedition -- the famous voyage meant to put America at the forefront of nineteenth century scientific discovery -- brings many skills to his job. Whether he's translating native languages, assisting his good friend Captain George Rochester as unofficial first mate, or upholding the rule of law as deputy to the sheriff of the port of Virginia, Wiki is never far from the action aboard the seven ships that make up the expedition.

But when they encounter a wrecked sealing ship and its desperate crew on the shoals of remote, uninhabited Shark Island, Wiki has little idea just how many of his skills are about to be put to the test. As soon as they board the wreck, a dead body turns up with a dagger firmly inserted between his shoulder blades. And it's not just any dead body: The victim of the brutal murder is none other than the enigmatic captain of the doomed voyage. What's more, Wiki's colleague and nemesis Lieutenant Forsythe is suspected of the crime.

Knowing full well that Forsythe is capable of such violence, Wiki nonetheless believes him innocent and is duty-bound to prove it for the good of the expedition. Was the murder a case of mutinous sealers taking the law into their own hands? Did the secrets of several mysterious long-ago voyages finally come back to haunt a dishonest and dishonorable captain? Or is Shark Island home to something more sinister than a few lonely goats? Something isn't quite right about the crew of the wrecked ship, and Wiki will stop at nothing to find out just what it is that they're hiding and, in the process, unmask a vicious killer.

Run Afoul

U. S. Exploring Expedition linguist Wiki Coffin sails with the famous convoy of ships toward Brazil, with no idea of the amazing encounter the fates and the winds have set in motion. As the great flagship Vincennes leads the convoy under the dubious command of eccentric Captain Charles Wilkes toward a dramatic entrance in the port of Rio, careless maneuvering leads one of the vessels to run afoul of a Boston trading ship.

As it turns out, the trader is owned and commanded by the famous and larger-than-life Captain William Coffin, father to Wiki and sailor of all seven seas. The encounter sets in motion a series of confounding events that reunite William with his illegitimate half-Maori son and that, before they are through, will see two men dead, William on trial for murder, and Wiki working feverishly to unmask the reall killers before the Expedition sails on -- leaving his father at the mercy of an unforgiving Brazilian court.

Deadly Shoals

Joan Druett's fourth seafaring mystery starring Wiki Coffin is packed with period detail from topgallant to keel.

Wiki Coffin plays many roles on the U. S. Exploring Expedition -- linguist, navigator, and, as Half-Maori, cultural liaison -- but when a New England whaler shows up, frantically looking for his stolen schooner, Wiki must take on the role of unofficial sheriff. The Expedition has reached the Rio Negro, an area famous for its rough gauchos and revolutionary spirit -- men have disappeared here without a trace.

Wiki hunts for the Machivellian trader who sold the schooner, but when the trail leads to a dead body, skull picked clean by vultures and half-buried in a hill of salt, he must use all his wits to find the missing schooner -- and the murderer. No one is what they seem on the Rio Negro, and while Wiki is distracted by a confusing case of mistaken identities the murder has set his sights on another target: the U. S. Exploring Expedition itself.

The Beckoning Ice

It is February 1839, and the ships of the United States Exploring Expedition are thrashing about dreaded Cape Horn, on their way to a rendezvous at Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego, on a crazy mission to be the first to find Antarctica. A sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg--surely a case for Wiki Coffin, half-Maori, half-Yankee "linguister," who is the representative of American law and order with the fleet.


But circumstances are against him. Wiki has been banished from the Swallow to the Peacock, where he is forced to battle racism in the wardroom, and vengeful sealers on the decks. Then Wiki is tested even further when he uncovers a brutal murder on board. To solve this double mystery, Wiki is forced to make a dangerous voyage to the utmost fringes of the beckoning ice.

In the Wake of Madness

In 1841, in the South Pacific, madness took the helm of the Massachusetts whaleship Sharon. Those who survived the ill-fated voyage never divulged what really happened. Now more than 150 years later, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett solves the mystery of the brutal murder of Captain Howes Norris -- one of the most ruthless and maniacal characters in nautical history.

This never-before-told true story about a deranged captain; his desperate, mutinous crew, and the man who -- in the wake of madness -- became a hero, is nautical writing at its best.

Hen Frigates

A "hen frigate," traditionally, was any ship with the captain's wife on board. Hen frigates were miniature worlds -- wildly colorful, romantic, and dangerous. Here are the dramatic, true stories of what the remarkable women on board these vessels encountered on their amazing voyages: romantic moonlit nights on deck, debilitating seasickness, terrrifying skirmishes with pirates, disease-bearing vermin, cockroaches as big as a man's slipper. And all of that while living with the constant fear of gales, hurricanes, collisions, and fire at sea.

Interweaving first-person accounts from letters and journals in and around the lyrical narrative of a sea journey from embarkation to arrival home, maritime histoiran Joan Druett brings life to these stories. We can almost feel for ourselves the fear, pain, anger, love, and heartbreak of these courageous women, transporting us back to the golden age of sail.

Winner of the New York Public Library Book to Remember Award and the L. Byrne Waterman Award.


SHE CAPTAINS, Heroines and Hellions of the Sea

If a "Hen Frigate" was any ship carrying a captain's wife, then a "she captain" was a bold woman distinguished for courageous enterprise in the history of the sea. "She captains," who infamously possessed the "bodies of women and the souls of men," thrilled and terrorized their shipmates, doing "deeds beyond the valor of women." Some were "bold and crafty pirates with broadsword in hand." Others were sirens, like the Valkyria Princess Alfhild, whom the mariners made rover-captain for her beauty.

Like their male counterparts, these astonishing women were drawn to the ocean's beauty -- and its danger. These were women who dared to captain ships of their own, don pirates' garb, and perform heroic and hellacious deeds on the high seas.

They were women like Irish raider Grace "Grania" O'Malley, who commanded three galleys and two hundred fighting men. Armed to the teeth with cutlasses and pistols, female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read inspired awe and admiration as they swaggered about in fancy hats and expensive finery, killing many a man who cowered cravenly before them.

Lovelorn Susan "put on a jolly sailor's dress/​And daubed her hands with tar/​To cross the raging sea/​On board a man of war" to be near her William. Others disguised themselves for economic reasons. In 1835, Ann Jane Thornton signed on as a ship's steward to earn the fair wage of nine dollars per month. When it was discovered that she was a woman, the captain testified that he was surprised, because she was a capital sailor. The crew, however, declared they had been suspicious from the start, "because she would not drink her grog like a regular seaman."

From the warrior queens of the sixth century BC, to the women shipowners who were influential in maritime affairs, She Captains features a real-life list of characters whose boldness and bravado have captured the imagination of many generations.


PETTICOAT WHALERS: WHALING WIVES AT SEA, 1820-1920

This is the colorful tale of the whaling ships that plied the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic and Antarctic oceans in the nineteenth century, and the men and women who worked and lived on them. Women? Yes -- an extraordinary number did accompany their husband-skippers on their long and perilous voyages, despite danger, privation and the undoubted brutality of the trade.

The women traveled for a variety of motives -- to keep their men from the demon grog and the voluptuous, sexually generous maidens of the Pacific, to spread the Christian word and morals of the day, or simply because they did not like being separated from their menfolk for the four or five years each voyage typically lasted.

This book is about the experiences of these women on board the windjammer whalers and in the boisterous, brawling ports of nineteenth century New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, Chile and Peru, as well as on a host of exotic islands. It is a book that demanded to be written, and is the result of five years' research on two continents.

Winner of the L. Byrne Waterman Award.