It was not jLady Castaways4ust the men who lived on the brink of peril when under sail at sea. Lucretia Jansz, who was enslaved as a concubine in 1629, was just one woman who endured a castaway experience. Award-winning historian Joan Druett (Island of the Lost, The Elephant Voyage), relates the stories of women who survived remarkable challenges, from heroines like Mary Ann Jewell, the “governess” of Auckland Island in the icy sub-Antarctic, to Millie Jenkins, whose ship was sunk by a whale.

This collection of tales — some spine-chilling, others amusing — features the feats of women under sail, when in extreme circumstances. I’ve touched on a few before, mostly in articles I wrote for the journal of the San Diego Maritime Museum, Mains’l Haul. These have been greatly lengthened as I revisited the various heroines, and with new research I found out much more about these remarkable women than I had known before.

Others are completely new. Grim tales, some are too. It amazed me how many women were shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic, and how few were castaway on lush tropical islets. A couple of the stories are the stuff of nightmares, but hopefully the reader will emerge from the book, as I did, feeling vast admiration for the resourcefulness of these beleaguered women.

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