Reading List: Maritime Adventures

From a Victorian circumnavigation of the globe to the tragedy of the Titanic, six tales of epic and sometimes tragic maritime adventure from the briny depths.

  • Words: Alexander Hawkins

Mauretania
by Humfrey Jordan
In 1909, her inaugural season, the ocean liner Mauretania set the fastest time for the Atlantic crossing, a record she would hold for 20 years. Embodying the golden age of transatlantic travel, Jordan’s biography of a much-loved ship encapsulates the turbulent decades of the early 20th century.

The Navy from Within
by K.G.B. Dewar
In 1928, after 38 years of decorated service in the Royal Navy, Vice Admiral Dewar found himself at the centre of a mutiny. Although vindicated at the subsequent court-martial, he would retire a year later and his memoirs are a vitriolic indictment of the navy’s practices.

A Voyage in the Sunbeam
by Baroness Annie Allnutt Brassey
A true classic of travel literature, Voyage chronicles Lord and Lady Brassey’s circumnavigation of the globe in their yacht, Sunbeam. Written at the end of the 19th century, it is an engaging vignette of a world, and its exotic cultures, on the verge.

The Ebb-Tide
by Robert Louis Stevenson
A far cry from the swashbuckling adventurers of Treasure Island, The Ebb-Tide is a contemporary story of moral depravity at the edge of civilisation. Written in collaboration with Stevenson’s stepson, four unscrupulous crew members in charge of a stolen, smallpox-infected ship ostracise themselves from society and drift ever closer to insanity.

A Night to Remember
by Walter Lord
Since it was published in 1955, this essential history of the sinking of the Titanic has never been out of print. Drawing from firsthand interviews with survivors of the disaster, as well as their books, memoirs and articles, Lord knits together a compelling account of the infamous maritime tragedy.

Five on a Treasure Island
by Enid Blyton
The first of the Famous Five adventures sees the gang unravel a thrilling mystery – a ghostly shipwreck, a treasure map and shady anonymous antique dealers. A wonderfully escapist tale, the book was published in 1942, echoing the war-time experiences of evacuation and rationing in a safe, ordered and thoroughly English world.

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Further Reading

Virgo Interferometer

In practice, picking up gravitational waves is an almost hopeless task; fortunately, physicists love a hopeless task. Avaunt explores the science behind the search.

Remote Museums

Far-flung objects of desire: pursuing knowledge to the edges of the world.

The Worst Journey

Let us consider the companionship and hardiness of three men who, trekking through the pitch-black Antarctic winter, survived temperatures of -60°C, crevasse falls and frostbite.

The White Limestone Workers of Minya

Egyptian photographer Nader Saadallah documents the eerie beauty of one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.

Sawanobori

A short film following UK climber James Pearson as he journeys to Japan to take on waterfall climbing – or ‘Sawanobori’ – for the first time.

The Man Who Talks to Sperm Whales

James Nestor reports on the astounding qualities of the sperm whale. Working with a highly qualified free diving crew he discovers how we are getting ever closer to communicating with the world's largest predator.
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