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

Story Island

Despite Iceland’s small population of 331,380, the average print run for fiction is 1,000 copies – a per capita equivalent of one million in the USA.

Microsculpture

A technique combining 8,000 images per picture. Photographer Levon Biss reveals insects as never seen before.

Life Inside a Saturation Chamber

‘It’s quicker to get back from the moon than from the depths we work at’: Inside one of the world’s most isolated jobs.

The First Woman To Row Across An Ocean

Sylvia Cook tells the story of how she rowed across the Pacific with adventurer John Fairfax in 1971: surviving shark attacks, a cyclone, a broken rudder and being washed up on a coral reef.

The Year of the Panther

Afrofuturism first emerged as a challenge to why there were so few black science fiction writers, yet the movement has grown in range and strength to ask fundamental questions about the way we structure our world.

Up Close: Wall of Death

The stuntmen of Allahabad, north India, risk their lives daily by riding motorbikes around vertical walls made from salvaged wood. Defying gravity through sheer momentum, they create a vertiginous, noisy whirl of action to enthrall the crowds.
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