Human endurance gives us the hope that we can survive anything. Faced with extraordinary circumstances or any life-or-death situation, humans will inevitably fight on. Throughout the centuries, countless tales of individuals and groups of people that have beaten incredible odds have been documented and shared. Reading journals and watching films about their experiences are amazing, frightening and inspiring, which is what compels us to drive forward in uncertain circumstances.
In the late 19th century the majority of tales about survival, fictional and non-fictional, tended to take place at sea. Because horse-drawn carriages and passenger liner ships were primary modes of transportation and accidents linked to them tended to produce stories about shipwrecks and castaways were more prevalent.
For folks with a hankering for nautical adventures and legends we’ve found some fascinating book torrents to stoke your inner spirit of survival. All book torrents below are believed to be in the public domain.
Shipwreck and castaway book torrents
1. Blue Lagoon, H. De Vere Stacpoole
The first novel in a triology it tells the story about two young children and a galley cook who survive a shipwreck in the South Pacific. The book has been adapted several times for film with the most recent version (1980) starring Brooke Shields.
2.The Coral Island, R. M. Ballantyne
Thought to be one of the first novels to feature exclusively juvenile protagonists this story is inspired by Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The children of a shipwreck must survive living on an island, as well as find balance and civility among themselves. This book influenced Golding’s Lord of The Flies.
3. The Boats of The ‘Glen-Carrig’, William Hope Hodgson
When a ship strikes a rock and becomes lost at sea its survivors board lifeboats and flea to a nearby island for safety. What makes this novel different is the presence of strange creatures that inhabit the island. It’s more of a nautical survival yarn with a horror twist.
4. The Open Boat, Stephen Crane
A newspaper reporter in the late 1800s, Crane recounts what happened when the boat he was traveling on sank off the coast of Florida. Survival and conflicts between nature and man play prominent roles in this novel.
5. Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce, James Riley
Captain of the ship, Commerce, Riley wrote this story based on a shipwreck that left himself and his crew stranded off the coast of Moroccan Western Sahara. Wandering the desert, as opposed to island-life, forced the crew to endure the elements and native population. As a result of this experience Riley devoted himself to the anti-slavery movement.
6. The Wonderful Narrative of Miss Julia Dean: The Only Survivor of the Steamship ‘City of Boston’, Julia Dean Vollar
Shipwreck survivor Julia Dean Vollar was forced to live for nine years on an uninhabited island when the British iron-hulled steamship, SS City of Boston, disappeared on a transatlantic journey in 1870. She has been described as a female, Robinson Crusoe.
7. The Story of Alexander Selkirk, Samuel Griswold Goodrich
A unique story because Selkirk was a volunteer castaway. During his travels at sea he became concerned with the condition of his vessel, Cinque Ports. He decided to stay on the Juan Fernández Islands and was able to remove various staples — clothing, carpenter’s tools, gunpowder — from his ship to aid him during this time.
8. The Narrative of Captain David Woodard and Four Seamen, D. N. Woodward
Traveling from Boston to Manila on the American ship, Enterprise, the ship and its crew were held captive among the Malays in the Celebes before making their escape and returning home to tell their story.
9. The Adventures of Philip Quarll, The English Hermit, Who Was Discovered by Mr. Dorrington on an Uninhabited Island, Peter Longueville
One of the more famous of all Robinsonade tales, the ‘English Hermit’ is about a Bristol merchant that lives on an island in the South Seas. After 50 years, the hermit refuses to leave.
Please note that movies based on these books may not be in the public domain
Harrowing, unpredictable and captivating, the stories above are interesting reads regardless of their age. Let us know what you think. Have you read any of the books that we’ve shared?
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