And Then I Read: STOWAWAY by Karen Hesse


Image © Karen Hesse and Robert Andrew Parker.

A young apprentice runs away from his cruel master in London, September of 1768 and stows away on a sailing ship going on a long voyage, hoping for a better life. A tale of seafaring adventure, but also a historical novel, as the ship is H.M.S. Endeavour, on the first of three voyages of exploration around the world, headed by Captain James Cook. I thought this sounded like a fun story, and it was fascinating, but not so fun for Nicholas Young and the other crewmembers. The scientists aboard spent lots of time examining every speciment they could get their hands on, from plants and sea life to birds and animals; recording, drawing, describing things never before seen by science, at least in Europe. The crew had a much harder life, and Nicholas started out resented by many because of his method of joining, but he worked hard, and made himself useful, and in the end, after several years, became a valued member of the company.

Sea travel was full of perils then, and rounding Cape Horn leads to the death of some crewmen, an eye-opener for the boy and the reader. Things are equally difficult elsewhere, as they are often becalmed, or wracked with storms, or short of vital supplies. South Pacific natives give them some help, and two even join the voyage, but others are warlike and dangerous. Coral reefs around Australia find them trapped and nearly sunk for months. When they finally rejoin European settlements in the area of Borneo, the crew falls to a deadly sickness that ends the life of many of them.

While this was sometimes a sad story, it was also ultimately a great read, and I learned much about the times and the science and the men of the Endeavour. Highly recommended.

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

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