Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Black Wave: A Book Review
There is just something about ships at sea that fascinate me. The book entitled "A Night To Remember" by Walter Lord was a book written about the Titantic which I read at a very young age and that book is one that I have never forgotten. I have written about Louie Zamperini and his amazing story of being adrift for forty-six days on a tiny raft in the South Pacific. Now, the book I want to tell you about today is "Black Wave" by John and Jean Silverwood. This couple took their four children out of school and decided to sail the seas on a catamaran, the Emerald Jane. The two oldest were teenagers, so you can imagine how that went over with those two, of course, they didn't want to leave their friends from high school! The first part of the book is written by Jean Silverwood and as you would expect, writes about the challenges of having such a large family in such close quarters. Her husband, John, had challenges of his own, with being the skipper of the the ship and also having some problems with alcohol. Then, all their energies were directed into just staying alive, when after being at sea for two years, they struck a reef in the South Pacific and the ship was destroyed. John Silverwood's life was just hanging by a thread, as his leg had been severed by the giant mast on the Emerald Jane. It truly was touch and go for a while, with the outcome not at all certain. Luckily, with the GPS, they were located rather quickly. John's leg was amputated but his life was saved. The bravery of his children is what you will remember from this ending of their journey.
In the second part of this book, John Silverwood reveals his discovery that another ship, the Julia Ann, had struck the SAME EXACT REEF, in the year 1855. The comparisons that he makes between the two sea-going vessels are to me, extraordinary. The Julia Ann was carrying coal from Newcastle to California and as passengers, some Australian born Mormons. The Captain of this ship, named Benjamin Franklin Pond, is a hero to me after I read this book. What a leader, and what a positive outcome after his ship hit this reef! But at first when all must have seemed lost, this is what he recorded...
"The moon was up and shed her faint light over the dismal scene: the sullen roar of the breakers sent an additional chill through my already benumbed frame. The bell at the wheel, with every surge of the sea, still toiled a knell to the departed, and naught else but the wailings of a bereaved mother broke the stillness of the night, or indicated life among that throng of human automata; during the long hours of that weary night the iron had entered their souls, and the awful solemnity of their situation was brooded over in silence."
Five people died from the shipwreck of the Julia Ann, three women and two small children. The rest of the fifty-one passengers and seventeen crew members were saved. They remained on the reef until the crew could build a raft so that they could be taken to a nearby island where they remained for two months, living on turtle meat and coconuts. As they were still on the reef, one of the passengers, a young woman by the name of Esther Spangenberg wrote these words:
"We remained in the water all that day, keeping as close as possible to prevent the sharks from attacking us, as there were a great many of them swimming about close to us. We had nothing to eat all day, and truly presented a miserable group; almost naked,our faces bloated, and our lips swollen to an unusual size."
There is more that I would like to tell you about Captain Pond and his leadership on the Julia Ann, but I encourage you to read this book and find out more about this fascinating true story of survival and courage.
The exact title of this book is "Black Wave: A Family's Adventure At Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them". Even though the ship met with disaster, the family survived it and came out stronger because of it.