Calamity in the Pacific Ocean leads to suffering and death

Kristin Krause put me right in that small boat drifting across the Pacific Ocean for 43 days with very little to eat and drink and almost no hope of surviving.

Krause’s book, Last Voyage Of The Hornet, tells an amazing and troubling story about the clipper ship Hornet that caught fire and sank in the Pacific Ocean in 1866. And yes, this is a true story.

The sailors on the burning ship get into three very small boats with just what they could carry into those boats. And during the frightening struggle to survive over 43 days, two of the boats sank, killing all aboard.

Kristin shares stories of other similar disasters including one in which the survivors of a sunken ship, as they drifted through the ocean, ate seven of the people in their small boat. Turns out this was perfectly legal back in the 1800s.

Kristin must have done a lot of research for this book, which includes a lot of realistic dialogue.

The third boat, a little larger than the other two, drifted for thousands of miles, finally landing in Hawaii, which was really their last chance at survival. They had had nothing to eat for quite a while, and were suffering terribly.

One intriguing aspect of the story was that little-known newspaper reporter Samuel Clemens was in Hawaii and met with the survivors to write this amazing story. That story went all around the country and Clemens turned into the famous Mark Twain.

I read this book in a single evening, unable to put it down until I found out whether that last boat of survivors made it to Hawaii. They did so in the nick of time, because some of the survivors intended to kill and eat the captain and take over the boat.

Just before that happened they spotted Hawaii up ahead. I appreciated that Kristin continued the story to tell us what happened to some of the survivors. Sadly, some died soon after being rescued in Hawaii. 43 days floating in the ocean, with no cover and very little food and water, was indeed devastating to everyone in the boat.

Kristin, a Maine resident, told me, “Long ago, I was a schooner bum in Camden/Rockport and sailed other tall ships. Since then, I’ve read a lot of maritime history and was amazed that I had never heard this wonderful tale.”

Kristin autographed the book for me and wrote Never Give Up! That is certainly one lesson of this fascinating story.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.