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» » Two Years Before the Mast (Regents Illustrated Classics, Level D)
Two Years Before the Mast (Regents Illustrated Classics, Level D)

Author:

R. H. Dana Jr.,Elaine Kirn

Title:

Two Years Before the Mast (Regents Illustrated Classics, Level D)

Category:

Education & Teaching

PDF ebook size:

1533 kb

ePub ebook size:

1216 kb

Fb2 ebook size:

1294 kb

Other book formats:

docx txt lrf mobi

Rating:

4.9

ISBN10:

0883454823

ISBN13:

978-0883454824

Publisher:

Prentice Hall (June 1982)

Language:

English

Subcategory:

Studying and Workbooks

Pages:

62

Buy Hardcover:

Amazon

Two Years Before the Mast (Regents Illustrated Classics, Level D) by R. H. Dana Jr.,Elaine Kirn

0883454823
Kajikus
I can see why this book is ranked among the Classics, and it is certainly a classic work in American Literature. Richard Henry Dana, a Harvard student from a well-to-do family, suffering from health issues due to the stress of academic life, makes a health-motivated decision to sign on as a regular seaman on an American merchant sailing vessel circa 1830. Others of his standing would more than likely have opted for a tour of Europe or sailing on a luxury ship, but he believed the rigors and outdoor activity from sailor life would reinvigorate his health. Most who make this kind of life decision, especially from a privileged family and lifestyle, fail miserably and the "dream" is quickly aborted. Not so with Master Dana. The narrative covers two years of his life aboard two ships - the Pilgrim and the Alert, sailing on the Pilgrim to the Pacific along Coastal California, and returning back to Boston on the Alert. His education and insatiable curiosity and discipline to keep a good set of notes enabled him to create a sort of documentary novel that captures, in vivid manner, life aboard a merchant sailing vessel in the early 19th century. He documents both the good and the bad. The good is the sheer joy of physical exercise, the sun and salt air - which in fact did resolve his health issues - but also documents the bad, or perhaps "negative" side of merchant sailor life. A sailor's lot was not good. There was constant work, difficult sleeping conditions (watches every 4 hours), and constant calls for "all hands ahoy" when changing wind or weather conditions required reconfiguring of sails. I learned a lot about sailing from this book. I can't pretend to remember all of the various kinds of sails - there are many, but the fact that sailors were constantly up and down the rigging to set, unset, furl, unfurl, and in other ways reconfigure the sails to suit the winds and the weather. Their diet consisted mainly of salt beef, biscuits, and tea or water, except when in ports. The Captain was king, with power of life and death over the crew. Some were reasonable, and others tyrants. The passing of the ships around Cape Horn were vivid - weeks (and weeks...) of freezing sleet, hail, rain and snow, and still they had to go up into the rigging to try to work with sails and ropes that were literally frozen, and where one false move would put them into the sea - "Man Overboard" - and many were lost in this manner. His description of his fellow sailors, the merchant activities in California (mainly trading for hides), his observations of California during that period, where we now recognize great cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and lesser settlements which now are sophisticated highly populated urban centers were then merely a Mission, maybe a Presidio, and small populations of Mexican, Indian, and emigrant Americans living in adobe homes. The reader will enjoy this book in multiple ways - certainly in gaining knowledge about sailor life, early California, and the commerce at that time, but also about the range of characters, hardships, and occasional contentment accompanying his adventure. I loved the book, and glad I read it, and consider it a must read for those interested in history and wonderful storytelling.
Kizshura
In the 1830's, the author (then a sickly Harvard student) shipped as a common sailor on a commercial clipper ship which left Boston to sail to California and back. Although an educated young man, he lived among the uneducated sailors as one of their own, almost completely separate from the officers on board. It is an engrossing read with detailed descriptions of all aspects of life about those old unpowered sailing ships--a difficult life indeed. The cruelty of the captains towards their men was particularly striking, as was the fact that pretty much everyone, once on board and under sail, was completely at the mercy of the captain, who was basically dictator of that small kingdom.

I could hardly put it down. It's amazing to realize that people survived such hardships, and it's also a revealing and endearing story about men living in close quarters with men, either on a ship or in times or war, where no women were normally to be found at all. So interesting on several levels. Well written, and a great read. Highly recommended. (P S - I'm biting my nails to prevent revealing any spoilers about this true-life story).
Khiceog
“There is a witchery in the sea…” Richard Dana’s classic memoir of a two-year sea voyage still draws spell-bound readers after nearly 200 years. More than a diary, his story is the result of extensive notes he jots down—somehow—in between seaman’s strenuous duties, above-deck watches every four hours, near-death experiences, and exhausted sleep.

Well-educated and from a family of means, the young Dana decides to take to sea as an able-bodied seaman (not an officer) at a time when life on board a merchant brig could be nasty, brutish and short. He takes us out of the Boston Harbor of 1834, around Cape Horn, and up the coast of California in the trader brig Pilgrim before changing ships to the Alert and returning via the same route.

Here’s a passage that tells a modern reader how a ship of those days actually looks and sounds as she hits the murderous waves:

“Two men at the wheel had as much as they could do to keep her within three points of her course, for she steered as wild as a young colt. The mate walked the deck, looking at the sails, and then over the side to see the foam fly by her, slapping his hands upon his thighs and talking to the ship… And when she leaped over the seas, and almost out of the water, and trembled to her very keel, the spars and masts snapping and creaking,—‘There she goes!—There she goes…as long as she cracks she holds!’”

As much as being the story of life at sea in the mid-nineteenth century, TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST is also a rare glimpse into the Mexican state of California before it gained statehood a few years later—the people, the harbor towns and presidios, the thriving cattle-hide trade.
The hardy mariners return with their cargo through the bitter-cold and dangerous seas of the southern hemisphere which threatens to kill them all. Herman Melville, after reading Dana’s account, remarked that it seemed to have been “written with an icicle.”

When Dana published his memoir in 1840 it was with the hope that contemporaries and future generations would better understand the maritime life and even work toward righting the injustices of that life. He could not know that, when gold was discovered in California a few years later, his book would become almost a travelogue for “forty-niners” who flocked to our largest and richest state. Indeed, Dana Point, California, was named after him.


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