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Peter Trawl The Adventures of a Whaler   By: (1814-1880)

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Peter Trawl, the Adventures of a Whaler, by W.H.G. Kingston.

Peter is a young teenager in a family that suffers a series of disastrous events. Family money is lost due to the failure of a bank, not at all uncommon in those days, probably about 1830. They lived in Portsmouth, where the father was a wherryman, ferrying people out to the ships. The father meets with an accident, having ferried a passenger to his ship at anchor outside the harbour, is caught up by freak weather, which broke up his boat and drowned him. The mother does what she can, taking commodities out to the ships for the benefit of the sailors, but trade was bad at that time, and she became ill, and dies as well. Thus the family were left without any support, until a Mr Gray, a Quaker, comes on the scene, and takes them under his wing. He is also a shipowner, and he gives Peter a chance on one of his ships. However, there are various mishaps with this ship, and Peter and his friend Jim arrive in Shetland, an archipelago in the far north of Britain, where Peter discovers that he has relatives. He takes a lift in a ship back to Portsmouth, as the ship was due to call in at Plymouth, but due to fair weather passes it by.

The ship is a whaler, and needs to get into the Pacific Ocean, but has a lot of trouble trying to round the Horn. Eventually they succeed. But Peter now has a new ambition, to find his long lost brother Jack who had gone to sea years before, and never been heard of. By chance he hears that Jack may be alive. In due course they find Jack, and come home again with him to Portsmouth, where Mr Gray has kindly looked after the female members of Peter's family, including his sister Mary.

Of course there are a lot of coincidences in this story, but that's part of the fun.




Brother Jack, a seaman's bag over his shoulders, trudged sturdily ahead; father followed, carrying the oars, spars, sails, and other gear of the wherry, while as I toddled alongside him I held on with one hand to the skirt of his pea jacket, and griped the boat hook which had been given to my charge with the other.

From the front of the well known inn, the "Keppel's Head," the portrait of the brave old admiral, which I always looked at with awe and admiration, thinking what a great man he must have been, gazed sternly down on us as we made our way along the Common Hard of Portsea towards the water's edge.

Father and Jack hauled in the wherry, and having deposited their burdens in her, set to work to mop her out and to put her to rights, while I stood, still grasping the boat hook, which I held upright with the point in the ground, watching their proceedings, till father, lifting me up in his arms, placed me in the stern sheets.

"Sit there, Peter, and mind you don't topple overboard, my son," he said, in the kind tone in which he always spoke to me and Jack.

I was too small to be of much use, indeed father had hitherto only taken me with him when he was merely going across to Gosport and back or plying about the harbour.

It was a more eventful day to Jack than to me. When I saw mother packing his bag, I had a sort of idea that he was going to sea, and when the next morning she threw her arms round his neck and burst into tears, and Jack began to cry too, I understood that he would be away for a long time.

Jack had been of great use to father, who grieved as much as mother to part with him, but, as he said, he wouldn't, if he could help it, bring him up as a long shore lubber, and a few voyages would be the making of him.

"He can't get none of the right sort of eddication on shore," observed father. "He'll learn on board a man of war what duty and discipline mean, and to my mind till a lad knows that he isn't worth his salt... Continue reading book >>

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