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Caliban's Shore: The Wreck of the Grosvenor and the Strange Fate of Her Survivors

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Caliban's Shore: The Wreck of the Grosvenor and the Strange Fate of Her Survivors Cover

ISBN13: 9780393327076
ISBN10: 0393327078
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In the summer of 1783 the grandees of the East India Company were horrified to learn that one of their finest ships, the 741-ton Grosvenor, had been lost on the wild and unexplored coast of southeast Africa. Astonishingly, most of those on board reached the shore safely—91 members of the crew and 34 wealthy, high-born passengers, including women and children. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest European outpost—and they were not alone. "They surveyed one another with mutual incomprehension: on the one hand the dishevelled castaways; on the other, black warriors with high conical hairstyles, daubed with red mud..." Drawing upon unpublished material and new research, Stephen Taylor pieces together the strands of this compelling saga, sifting the myths from a reality that is no less gripping. Full of unexpected twists, Caliban's Shore takes the reader to the heart of what is now South Africa, to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, to tell the story of those who returned, and to unravel the mystery of those who stayed.

Synopsis:

"This incredible true story reads like the wildest fiction."—Booklist

Synopsis:

In the summer of 1783 the grandees of the East India Company were horrified to learn that one of their finest ships, the 741-ton Grosvenor, had been lost on the wild and unexplored coast of southeast Africa. Astonishingly, most of those on board reached the shore safely—91 members of the crew and 34 wealthy, high-born passengers, including women and children. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest European outpost—and they were not alone. "They surveyed one another with mutual incomprehension: on the one hand the dishevelled castaways; on the other, black warriors with high conical hairstyles, daubed with red mud..." Drawing upon unpublished material and new research, Stephen Taylor pieces together the strands of this compelling saga, sifting the myths from a reality that is no less gripping. Full of unexpected twists, Caliban's Shore takes the reader to the heart of what is now South Africa, to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, to tell the story of those who returned, and to unravel the mystery of those who stayed.

About the Author

Stephen Taylor's most recent book is Caliban's Shore. He works for The Times of London and lives in Windsor.

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jasonkaldis, May 9, 2007 (view all comments by jasonkaldis)
Imagine being a passenger on a ship wrecked on rocks in dangerous surf, too far to swim to shore, but close enough to believe you can make it. Imagine getting to shore - the story of which you'll want to re-read simply to make you're head stop shaking in disbelief and awe - only to find that you are still hundreds of miles from any known settlements, and a desert intervenes in one direction and unknown territory and potentially hostile natives in other directions. Imagine that some of the survivors aren't particularly fond of each other. These ingredients and more are what makes this story grab you from the beginning. And you want to follow it to whatever bitter or happy ending awaits.

Stephen Taylor follows the trail of the survivors of the wreck of the Grosvenor from their passage on an East Indiaman ship to its wreck on the coast of East Africa - where surprisingly most survive due to sheer ingenuity and can do spirit - and continues with them up and down the coast as they try to find a Dutch settlement to the south or rescue to the north. In the course of their travels, the survivors encounter Africans both friend and foe as well as encountering their own internecine dischord along their trek. A rescue party's story is also told, with unpredictable outcomes, as is the story of several African tribes encountered.

What is most fascinating is how the stories of the various surviving parties and those they encountered is revealed in a kind of real-time news reel fashion, the uncertainty of each's fate is revealed (and in at least one case hypothesized) as the survivors themselves and their accounts trickle home to England (and elsewhere, or not, in some cases). Of equal interest is the connections some make while others divide.

Taylor's telling of this account, following the wreck and attempted rescue - informed by the diaries and inquests and other investigative research - rekindled my interest in the sea, in sailing, in exploration, in geography, and in the early days of Europeans' foray into worlds previously unknown to (or little understood by) them.

Issues of class, racism, sexism and colonialism all touch the lives of the survivors and those they encounter on their trek through a new world and back to the old world they came from.

Several aspects of the re-telling of the Wreck of the Grosvenor continue to resonate with today's headlines. Read it to make your own connections and draw your own conclusions.

Taylor, a South African journalist (writing from England these days), is familiar with the setting of the wreck and traced the trails of the various survivors, and as a result, his familiarity coupled with his substantial writing skills present a compellingly and vivid account of all that befell the passengers of the Grosvenor and those they met and places they went after surviving the wreck.

This account is highly recommended reading, and especially so for the history (or travel) buff, the nautical fan, or adventure junkie.

After I read this book, not only did I want to visit East and South Africa, take passage on an East Indiaman, and live vicariously as a modern day explorer or adventurer, I bought more books than I care to admit on related subjects and am steadily working my way through them with much pleasure and elucidation, so I must compliment Mr. Taylor in inspiring and/or rekindling these interests and expanding my library and horizon. Thanks!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393327076
Author:
Taylor, Stephen
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
General
Subject:
Ships & Shipbuilding - Shipwrecks
Subject:
Africa - South - South Africa
Subject:
Africa - South - Republic of South Africa
Subject:
South Africa
Subject:
World History-Africa
Publication Date:
20050731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.20x5.52x.88 in. .71 lbs.

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Related Subjects

» History and Social Science » Africa » South Africa
» History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
» History and Social Science » World History » Africa
» Transportation » Nautical » General
» Transportation » Nautical » Shipwrecks

Caliban's Shore: The Wreck of the Grosvenor and the Strange Fate of Her Survivors New Trade Paper
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Product details 288 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393327076 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "This incredible true story reads like the wildest fiction."—Booklist
"Synopsis" by , In the summer of 1783 the grandees of the East India Company were horrified to learn that one of their finest ships, the 741-ton Grosvenor, had been lost on the wild and unexplored coast of southeast Africa. Astonishingly, most of those on board reached the shore safely—91 members of the crew and 34 wealthy, high-born passengers, including women and children. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest European outpost—and they were not alone. "They surveyed one another with mutual incomprehension: on the one hand the dishevelled castaways; on the other, black warriors with high conical hairstyles, daubed with red mud..." Drawing upon unpublished material and new research, Stephen Taylor pieces together the strands of this compelling saga, sifting the myths from a reality that is no less gripping. Full of unexpected twists, Caliban's Shore takes the reader to the heart of what is now South Africa, to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, to tell the story of those who returned, and to unravel the mystery of those who stayed.
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