- ISBN/SKU: 9781557506931
- Binding: Hardcover
- Era: Age of Sail
- Number of Pages: 208
- Subject: Royal Navy
- Date Available: March 1999
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No mythic journey, this tale of adventure on the high seas is completely true, told by a writer who spent World War II in warships of the Royal Navy. The story is based on the real-life adventures of George Shelvocke, commander of the 22-gun privateer Speedwell that set sail in 1718 to steal treasure from Spanish ships in the South Seas. Filled with pirates, mutinies, sea battles, violent storms, and shipwrecks on exotic islands, the fast-moving narrative offers authentic details of the period and honest characterizations of real individuals. Not since Shelvocke's own book was published in 1726 has the full story been told, although Samuel Coleridge based his Rime of the Ancient Mariner on events reported by the Speedwell captain. This is the only modern attempt to recount the epic voyage.
Eminently readable, Kenneth Poolman's account ranks with Patrick O'Brian's popular novels but has the added appeal of being non-fiction. Its contribution to the age of sail is significant. We learn how Shelvocke's seamanship skills allow him to outfight larger Spanish warships and capture prizes but are no match for the stormy seas that claim his frigate. We get an uncomfortably close look at the lives of the shipwrecked survivors on a Pacific island—the same island from which the real "Robinson Crusoe" was rescued—and we watch in fascination as the crew mutinies and forms what is, in fact, the first sailors' soviet in history. Though not without shortcomings, Shelvocke is shown be a natural leader who persuades the men to build a small vessel with timber from the wreck and trees hacked from the forest. Eventually the crew reinstates their captain and manages to take over a Spanish ship which they sail to Maçao. Shelvocke's role in getting the sick and starving men to safety is just one of the dramatic stories included in this classic sea odyssey. A richly detailed and colorful glossary insures the enjoyment of readers regardless of their background.