Sunday, August 16, 2020

Book cover: "1700 Miles in Open Boats"

  • Title: 1700 Miles in Open Boats
  • Cover subtitle: "The Voyages of the 'Trevessa' Lifeboats"
  • Author: Cecil Foster (1887-1930)
  • Cover illustrator: Winston Megoran (1913-1971)
  • Publisher: Rupert Hart-Davis, London; published in the United States by Essential Books of Fair Lawn, New Jersey (see below)
  • Year: 1952 (first published in 1924)
  • Series: The Mariners Library (No. 19)
  • Pages: 191
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "This is the famous story of the foundering of the S.S. Trevessa in the southern Indian Ocean in 1923 and of the remarkable voyages made by the two lifeboats, told by the Captain himself. When they abandoned ship they were about as far from land as they could have been. ... To anyone faced with a similar situation the lessons learnt from Captain Foster's experiences might well make the difference between death and survival."
  • Provenance: The York Emporium
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to my wife"
  • First sentence: "The story of the voyage of the 'Trevessa's' boats here set down is based, in the first instance, on the log which I kept in a small pocket book."
  • Last sentence: "In a few cases death was probably accelerated by the drinking of salt water."
  • Passage from the middle: "It is generally recognised at sea that sharks will not attack a coloured man as readily as they attack a white man. Whether this is correct or not, I do not know, but I have seen many coloured men in the East who have been maimed by sharks. We did not see many sharks, and those we did see did not come very close or remain long in company."
  • More about Capt. Foster: This is from a 2011 BBC News story by Neil Prior: "Cecil Foster's time in the lifeboat during WWI taught him that the survival rations were all wrong. ... The rations stowed in the boats at the time were very similar to the ship's usual diet. It mainly consisted of tinned and/or salted meat, which was extremely difficult to digest, and sucked out a lot of scarce water from the men's dehydrated bodies. After the war, Cecil insisted that Hain [Steamship Company] changed the emergency drills and rations. Salted beef was replaced with condensed milk and hard biscuits, with high calorific content but easy for the stomach to break down."
  • Review excerpt: From a 2019 review of the book on the Morrab Library website: "The book is very readable and the text is punctuated by extracts from the logs of the two boats. ... The book could have done with a glossary of nautical terms since the language of the sea cannot always be understood by ‘landlubbers.’ The incident, though well known at the time and now largely forgotten, deserves to be remembered today and ranks with such long open boat voyages as that of Captain Bligh, cast off from the ‘Bounty,’ and Mary Bryant, who escaped from Botany Bay. One can also add Shackleton’s 800 mile journey in 1914 an open boat in the Antarctic after the sinking of HMS Endurance."

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