The Rattlesnake: A Voyage of Discovery to the Coral Sea

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 384 pages
Author: J. Goodman
Year: 2005
ISBN: 9780571210787
Other: b&w & colour photos, sketches, maps, bibliog, index
Publisher: Faber & Faber

This is the epic and beautifully told story of a great nineteenth-century voyage of exploration, and of the ambitions and fears that propelled the pioneers during their four years on board.

HMS 'Rattlesnake, an ageing British warship, was commissioned in 1846 to survey Australia's magnificent but treacherous Great Barrier Reef, and to produce the first detailed chart of the New Guinea coast. Every reef, every shoal, every rock hazard had to be located and mapped with extreme accuracy. At stake was the pre-eminence of British sea power - and the ambitions of those on board.

If all went well Stanley, the ship's jubilant captain, could expect a top job in the Admiralty; MacGillivray, the gifted naturalist, would be the world's expert on the fauna of Australia and the unknown New Guinea; and Huxley, the ambitions young surgeon, could abandon the dreary routine of naval service for the excitement of the new world of science. But a series of highly dramatic events and encounters ensures that by the time the 'Rattlesnake' finally returns to England, the glorious dreams of at least some of her crew have met with tragedy ...

List of Illustrations

Part 1
1. London, 1846
2. Portsmouth, 1846

Part 2
3. A Taste of the Tropics: Madeira and Rio de Janeiro, 1847
4. The Bullion Run: The Cape Colony and Mauritius, 1847

Part 3
5. 'Australia Felix': Hobart, Sydney, and Twofold Bay, 1847
6. 'Not Waltzes and Polkas: The Great Barrier Reef 1847 and 1848

Part 4
7. Edmund Kennedy and Cape York, 1848
8. The Cape, the Furnace and Cockroaches, 1848 and 1849
9. The Tragedy of Kennedy, 1849

Part 5
10. 'Tristes Tropiques': The Louisiade Archipelago and New Guinea, 1849
11. A White Woman and Darnley Island, 1849 and 1850

Part 6
12. Death of a Captain: Sydney, 1850
13. Getting Home, 1850


'Invaluable ... Goodman conjures the creak of the mast as canvas strained to breaking point, the seething scrabble of decks alive with cockroaches, and the thrill of a sparkling tropical sea after months of cold privation' - Sara Wheeler, The Times

'Wonderful. This compelling book tells the real-life story o living and working on an exploring ship at the height of Britain's imperial ambitions ... Gripping and beautifully written' - Janet Browne, author of 'Charles Darwin'

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The Rattlesnake: A Voyage of Discovery to the Coral Sea


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