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The Wreck of the Nancy Bell Cast Away on Kerguelen Land   By:

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The Wreck of the Nancy Bell; or, Cast Away on Kerguelen Land

By John Conroy Hutcheson

A well written nautical novel by J.C. Hutcheson. The "Nancy Bell" appears to be a well found ship, on its way out from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, but she is beset early on by a severe storm which leaves her rudderless and mastless. One of the passengers was an ex Royal Navy Commander who, for some reason, was travelling incognito. He had offered the Captain advice which was rejected as the Captain thought it came from a landsman. Very possibly, had he heeded that advice, the whole train of disasters might not have occurred.

Hutcheson has a habit of introducing characters who speak in their own form of English. In this case he has a Jamaican, an Irishman, and a Yankee, all speaking with their own native versions of the language. For good measure there is also a Norwegian, who has to make himself understood in a mixture of German and English. All this makes for a rather difficult book to transcribe, but I hope we have got it right.

Eventually the vessel is wrecked just off Kerguelen Island, where the crew and passengers land and build themselves a shelter to take them through the winter. There had been a mutiny just before the wreck, and some of the crew had landed elsewhere, but eventually one or two men who had not been the actual mutineers, but who had got caught up in events, make their way back to the main party.

When spring arrives they make their way to the other side of Kerguelen Island, by a route which includes an overland traverse by boat, portaging where necessary. Eventually a vessel comes in, and they are saved.

Hutcheson is very good at getting his characters to appear quite real, and for this reason he is a good author to follow.





"How's her head?" exclaimed Captain Dinks, the moment his genial, rosy, weather beaten face appeared looming above the top rail of the companion way that led up to the poop from the saloon below, the bright mellow light of the morning sun reflecting from his deep tanned visage as if from a mirror, and making it as radiant almost as the orb of day.

"West sou' west, sorr," came the answer, ere the questioner could set foot on the deck, in accents short, sharp, prompt, and decisive, albeit with a strong Milesian flavour, from the chief mate. He was the officer of the watch, and was standing alongside the man at the wheel on the weather side of the ship, with a telescope under his arm and a keen look of attention in his merry, twinkling grey eyes.

"Ha hum!" muttered the captain to himself reflectively. "I wish the wind would shift over more to the nor'ard, and we'd then be able to shape a better course; we're going far too much to the west to please me! I suppose," he added in a louder tone, addressing the mate again, "she isn't making any great way yet since daylight, McCarthy, eh?"

"No, sorr, leastways, Captain Dinks," replied that worthy, a genuine thorough going Irishman, "from the crown of his head to the sole of his fut," as he would have said himself, and with a shaggy head of hair and beard as red as that of the wildest Celt in Connemara, besides being blessed with a "brogue" as pronounced as his turned up nose on which one might have hung a tea kettle on an emergency, in the hope that its surroundings would supply the requisite fire and fuel for boiling purposes. "No, sorr, no way at all at all, sure! Not more'n five knots, cap'en honey, by the same token, the last time we hove the log at six bells, bad cess to it!"

"Everything drawing, too, slow and aloft!" said the captain, with just a shade of discontent in his cheery voice, as he took in with a quick, sailor like glance the position of the ship and every detail of the swelling pyramids of canvas that towered up on each mast from deck to sky the yards braced round sharp, almost fore and aft, the huge square sails flattened like boards, the tremulous fluttering of the flying jib, and occasional gybing of the spanker, showing how close up to the wind the vessel was being steered... Continue reading book >>

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