Updated: Nov 5
"The Wager" by David Grann is a true sea adventure that unfolds like a riveting novel. In the year 1740, Commodore George Anson embarked on a mission to disrupt and harass Spanish shipping routes in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Departing from England, he led a squadron of ships, among which was the formidable HMS Wager, a 24-gun frigate.
Initially helmed by Captain Dandy Kidd, the voyage took a tragic turn when Kidd succumbed to the challenges of the journey and died. That necessited the elevation of Captain David Cheap to command. Under Cheap's leadership, the expedition went south, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. Their route led them through the treacherous waters of the Strait of Magellan, situated at the southern tip of South America.
As the voyage progressed, the crew of the Wager encountered relentless storms that battered their vessel, ultimately culminating in its grounding on a desolate island off the coast of what is now modern-day Chile.
The first part of the narrative immerses the reader in the tempestuous storms that preceded the ship's abandonment. Here, you read of profound loss of life on high seas, plagued by disease and injury. In the middle section of the book, the reader is taken through a harrowing months-long struggle for survival. The final segment of the story addresses the fate of the survivors upon their eventual return to England, revealing that, against expectation, some endured.
Author David Gann exhibits exceptional skill in weaving together historical documents and firsthand journals, crafting a narrative that delivers a compelling and action-packed account of this extraordinary expedition.
For a fine sea adventure and learning something about the early English navy, I recommend this book highly.