Byron of the Wager by Peter Shankland
The wreck of the Wager stands next to the mutiny on the Bounty as one of the most powerful stories in the history of the sea.
The Wager was detailed to accompany George Anson in his famous 1740 voyage in search of Spanish treasure ships. Wrecked in the terrible weather, many of the ship’s crew survived – including the future grandfather of Lord Byron – but personal tensions were grave.
Once ashore, the survivors split into two factions. Their only hope of survival lay in reconstructing the Wager’s longboat. But then where were they to sail her? Back through the known terrors of the Magellan Strait or forward into the Pacific in the hope of rejoining Anson or taking a Spanish prize? Mr. Bulkeley, the first intimidating de facto faction leader, pressed the former; the captain, leader of the second faction, championed the latter.
In the end, incredibly, both policies were adopted and both parties, fearfully diminished, eventually reached England after adventures and privations to test the very limits of endurance.
Peter Shankland was a military historian whose books include Byron of the Wager, The Phantom Flotilla and Dardanelles Patrol, a story of the submarine operation against Turkey in World War I.