Author(s): Joan Druett
On May 25, 1841, the whaleship Sharon of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, set out for the whaling grounds of the northwestern Pacific under the command of Captain Howes Norris. A year later, while most of the crew was out on the hunt, Norris remained at the helm with four crew members - three of them natives from the Pacific Islands. When the men in the whaleboats spied the Sharon's flag flying at half-mast -a signal of distress- they rowed toward the ship to discover their Captain had been hacked to pieces. His murderers, the Pacific Islanders, were covered in blood and brandishing weapons. Unless the crew could retake the Sharon, their prospects of survival were slim. The nearest land was seven hundred miles away. In an astonishing single-handed recapture, the third officer, Benjamin Clough, swam through shark-infested waters in the dead of night, slipped through one of the cabin windows, and launched a surprise attack on the mutineers, killing two of them and overtaking the other. Though news of Clough's courageous act spread quickly through ports around the globe, an American investigation into the shipboard crimes was never conducted - even when the Sharon returned home three years later, with only four of the original twenty-nine crew on board. The true story of what happened aboard the Sharon remained buried for over 150 years. Through recently discovered journals of the ship's cooper and the third officer, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett unearths the mystery of the ill-fated whaleship. Dramatically and meticulously recreating the events of the Sharon, Druett pieces together a voyage filled with savagery and madness under the command of one of the most ruthless captains to sail the high seas. Like The Pirate Hunter and Blue Latitudes, In the Wake of Madness brings to life a riveting story and exposes the secrets that followed the men of the Sharon to their graves.