The Lost Fleet

A Yankee Whaler's Struggle Against the Confederate Navy and Arctic Disaster

Marc Songini

St. Martin's Press

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It’s the mid-19th century and the American whaling fleet, the wonder and envy of the maritime nations of the world, is struck by one hammer blow after another. Yankee whalers are contending with icebergs, storms, rogue whales, sharks, hostile natives, and disease. Now conditions are getting even worse, and the chances become ever slimmer a whaling master and his crew will return from a voyage safe and profitable. The scarcity of whales, the increasing dangers of going further into the Arctic, and the roving Confederate privateers are making this already difficult profession ever riskier. Many whalers give up the life—but some carry on the vocation.
 
One such man is a tall captain from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Thomas William Williams. Not only does he go out on voyage after voyage, but he even takes on board with him his tiny wife, Eliza, and his infant son and daughter.
 
The Lost Fleet's thrilling narrative recounts Williams' remarkable career, including a daring escape from the Confederate cruiser Alabama and a daring rescue and salvage of lost ships off Alaska's coast. A family saga, a true narrative of adventure and death on the high seas and a detailed and well-researched look at the demise of Yankee whaling--Songini has crafted an historical masterpiece.
 

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Book Excerpts

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Chapter One

Lonely but Not Alone

The ship’s agent whispered to the master, already on board, “Captain Jones, you’ve forgotten to kiss your wife good-bye!” Without so much as a look down, the captain replied: “What’s ailin’ her? I’m only going to be gone six months.”

—Old whaling story

september 7, 1858,

new bedford harbor

At about two hours before noon on this mild day, a thirty-one-summers old and pregnant Eliza Azelia Williams left one of the many wharfs connecting to Water Street and entered a waiting pilot’s schooner.

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Reviews

Praise for The Lost Fleet

"A lively, suspenseful, mesmerizing book." --The Providence Journal
 
"A Nantucket sleigh ride of a read, guaranteed to thrill and amaze." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
"The Lost Fleet tells a fascinating, in-depth story of how over-confidence and over-harvesting of a species set an entire fleet of whaling vessels on a voyage of destruction.  Through meticulous research, author Mark Songini not only chronicles this 1871 disaster, but also illustrates how this event crushed both the whaling city of New Bedford and its prize industry.  Readers will come away with an appreciation of the dangers that await those who challenge and ignore nature's warnings." --Michael Tougias, bestselling author of TEN HOURS UNTIL DAWN: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do and FATAL FORECAST: The True Story of Survival and Tragedy at Georges Bank.

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About the Author

Marc Songini

MARC SONGINI is a Boston-area journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Book Review, the Boston Herald, and the Boston Globe. The Lost Fleet is his fourth book, and third book on New England history. He has lived in the greater Boston area for most of his life.

Marc Songini

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Lost Fleet
A Yankee Whaler's Struggle Against the Confederate Navy and Arctic Disaster
Marc Songini

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
November 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466858336
ISBN10: 1466858338
448 pages, Includes one map plus one 8-page black-and-white photograph section
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
July 2008
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312380953
ISBN10: 031238095X
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 448 pages, Includes one map plus one 8-page b&w photo section
$19.99
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