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Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventureby Arthur Conan, Sir Doyle
Synopses & Reviews
In 1880 a young medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle embarked upon the “first real outstanding adventure” of his life, taking a berth as ships surgeon on an Arctic whaler, the Hope. The voyage took him to unknown regions, showered him with dramatic and unexpected experiences, and plunged him into dangerous work on the ice floes of the Arctic seas. He tested himself, overcame the hardships, and, as he wrote later, “came of age at 80 degrees north latitude.”
Conan Doyles time in the Arctic provided powerful fuel for his growing ambitions as a writer. With a ghost story set in the Arctic wastes that he wrote shortly after his return, he established himself as a promising young writer. A subsequent magazine article laying out possible routes to the North Pole won him the respect of Arctic explorers. And he would call upon his shipboard experiences many times in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, who was introduced in 1887s A Study in Scarlet.
Out of sight for more than a century was a diary that Conan Doyle kept while aboard the whaler. Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure makes this account available for the first time in a beautiful facsimile edition that reproduces Conan Doyles notebook pages in his own elegant hand, accompanied by his copious illustrations. With humor and grace, Conan Doyle provides a vivid account of a long-vanished way of life at sea. His careful detailing of the experience of arctic whaling is equal parts fascinating and alarming, revealing the dark workings of the later days of the British whaling industry. In addition to the facsimile and annotated transcript of the diary, the volume contains photographs of the Hope, its captain, and a young Conan Doyle on deck with its officers; two nonfiction pieces by Doyle about his experiences; and two of his tales inspired by the journey.
To the end of his life, Conan Doyle would look back on this experience with awe: “You stand on the very brink of the unknown,” he declared, “and every duck that you shoot bears pebbles in its gizzard which come from a land which the maps know not. It was a strange and fascinating chapter of my life.” Only now can the legion of Conan Doyle fans read and enjoy that chapter.
A special limited, numbered edition of the clothbound book is also available. In addition, a text-only e-book edition is published as Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure, Text-only Edition.
"Even if this diary of the 19th-century whaling ship Hope's Arctic exploits didn't come from Sherlock Holmes' creator, it would still make fascinating reading, especially for Patrick O'Brian fans. The editors provide a lucid introduction to a facsimile of the diary itself and Lellenberg's transcript of the text. Though Doyle, a medical student serving aboard as ship's doctor, was just 20 at the time, his gifts for writing and observation are already much in evidence, as when he observes 'hillocks' of ice 'rising and falling with the waves, pure white above and of a wonderful green below.' Also included is Doyle's two-page listing of all the animals — from protozoa to right whales — he saw during the journey, which lasted from February through August 1880. Similar to Christopher Tolkien's work on his father's unpublished writings, this diary's publication adds both to the still-growing body of Doyle's early work and to our understanding of what made him tick. A Holmes story clearly influenced by the experience, 'The Adventure of Black Peter,' featuring a murder-by-harpoon, makes a nice extra. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Jon Lellenberg is the US agent for the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd and coeditor of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters.
Table of Contents
2: Facsimile of the diary (c.180 pages)
3: Transcript of the diary
4: Two non-fiction pieces by Arthur Conan Doyle about his experiences: ‘The Glamour of the Arctic’ (The Idler, July 1892) and ‘Life on a Greenland Whaler’ (The Strand Magazine, January 1897)
5: Fiction pieces by Arthur Conan Doyle inspired by the voyage: ‘The Captain of the Pole Star’ (Temple Bar, 1883), ‘J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement’ (The Cornhill, 1884) and ‘The Adventure of Black Peter’, a Sherlock Holmes story of 1904.
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