Review of Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World written by Joan Druett
The story told in this book has a lot of similarities to the story of Endurance and Earnest Shakelton but with a few interesting twists. First, this story involves two shipwrecks not just one. And interestingly enough the survivors of each shipwreck ended up on the same island without knowledge of each other.
Anyone who knows the endurance story can tell you that the leadership of Earnest Shakelton had much to do with the rescue of every crewmember. What is unique with this story is that it involves two different captains, one with leadership skills and one who had none.
There were some major differences in the makeup of the crews on the two shipwrecks. The first shipwreck had only five people on board, while the second shipwreck had twenty-five of which nineteen survived the initial accident. The difference in the size of each surviving group played a role because food was at a premium. It was much easier to find food for five than it was for nineteen. Still, the first group of survivors off the ship the Grafton quickly took stock of their situation and set about building shelter and searching for food. The second group from the ship the Invercauld, without any leadership from the captain, began separating and fighting amongst themselves.
Besides the difference in the number of survivors, the survivors from the Invercauld had a slew of other disadvantages including the fact that the crew barely knew each other, they had become shipwrecked during a time when the seal population was at a low point, and they were not able to salvage anything from the wreck of their ship as were the crew from the Grafton.
This story takes place in 1864 on the Auckland islands near New Zealand. New Zealand is the larger island group to the northwest of the marker. I read the book on a Kindle and there was only one map, and it wasn’t a very good map. So I spent a lot of time not knowing exactly where this was taking place. There also were no accompanying images in the Kindle version. More on this later.
So you have two shipwrecks on the same island unaware of each other. One group is organized and resourceful; the other group not so much. Out of the original nineteen survivors of the Invercauld only three would survive the ordeal. The three that did survive had a seaman by the name of Holding who became the de facto leader once it was apparent that the captain was of little help. The captain, on the other hand, was your typical upper management type. He took credit for other people’s ingenuity and distanced himself from his failures.
The author does a good job of telling the two stories and the eventual outcomes. The book was first released in 2007. The book, like many other books these days, is getting a second life thanks to the eReader. This is a perfect example of how major publishers just don’t get it when it comes to digital. First, the book was never released as a paperback. That’s mistake number one. I don’t know what the sales were for the hardback, but at $39.95 I’m guessing under 5,000 copies. Had they been smart and priced the book reasonably, they probably could have sold five times as many books, especially a lower priced paperback. But the dimwits at Algonquin saw this as a limited market book and did absolutely nothing to promote it. There is a market for good nonfiction beyond the narrow genre of New Zealand history.
So someone at Algonquin decided it might be a good idea to release a digital version of the book, probably on the insistence of the author. But here again they screwed up. First they priced it $14.97. That’s too high for a book released in 2007. Then they didn’t add anything to the digital version such as images and maps that would have provided value. But even at the high price the book is selling well as an eBook. If it were priced at $9.95 or less, you can bet they would be selling even more.