cover image Left for Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World

Left for Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World

Eric Jay Dolin. Liveright, $29.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-324-09308-4

Maritime travel by sail was exceptionally “unpredictable” and pushed individuals “under great duress” to act in ways both noble and deceitful, according to this twisty tale. Bestseller Dolin (Rebels at Sea) unspools a fraught encounter on the Falkland Islands during the War of 1812 between the Nanina, a 13-man American sealing expedition, and the Isabella, a shipwrecked British convict transport bearing more than 50 crew and passengers, among them civil servants, prisoners released from an Australian penal colony, and the families of both. Stranded for more than a month, the Isabella was facing starvation and infighting when the Nanina stumbled upon the castaways in March 1813 and, despite the outbreak of war, offered them transportation in exchange for their cargo. The Isabella’s captain agreed, and the two groups camped together for three months while undertaking a complex salvage operation. The tables turned drastically, however, when the British brig Nancy showed up, summoned by a boat the Isabella had dispatched shortly after foundering. The Nancy captured the Nanina, leaving five Americans marooned. For the next 534 days, they survived through Robinson Crusoe–esque ingenuity. This stunning account of shifting fortunes is riven with tension on every page, as Dolin provides detailed descriptions of bickering and backstabbing, tricky nautical maneuvers, and desperate survival techniques. It’s an edge-of-your-seat adventure. (May)