Barnes was born in 1850 into a ship owning family in St. Johns, Newfoundland, and first went to sea while still a boy. At the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for service even though he was 64. During the war, he was mined or torpedoed three times and spent three days adrift in an open boat. After the war, sea-dog’s life became the basis for a popular cartoon character and he published the story of his adventures in a memoir marked with a strong narrative flair. His autobiography makes for riveting reading and shows how exciting was the life of a turn-of-the century sailor.