The Book of the Week is “From Raft to Raft” by Bengt Danielsson, originally published in 1960. This ebook recounts the suspenseful stories of two voyages of a small group of men on a raft in the South Seas.
The author found he enjoyed the seafaring life, so he met up with his older brother to live it. In late 1956, their thrill-seeking led them to engage in the ultimate survival challenge by teaming up with a few other men to attempt to sail from Tahiti to Chile in a raft they built themselves, like Thor Heyerdahl had done in 1947. Danielsson described how they fared on that trip and a second one, and related an element crucial for survival at sea when things go wrong: “Our safety depended… on agreeing and co-operating fully, and if, for example, Jean and Hans refused to take watches [do a shift navigating] the end would be disaster for us all.”
Another aspect of a sailing expedition was that if untoward things happened and the crew members decided to express their dissatisfaction through a mutiny, the captain usually had an ace-in-the hole. He could remind his men that there were documented laws vesting him with the authority to severely punish them when they got back to shore. Unfortunately, although he was put in charge by the captain who had fallen ill, Danielsson was on an informal sojourn, so he had no power to threaten his underlings with any consequences if they went on strike.
In the late 1950’s, nautical navigation and wireless-radio technology left a lot to be desired. Their supplies rapidly dwindling, the men tried to head for the closest South Sea island they could. At one point, it was actually fortunate that prevailing winds pushed the men’s raft away from a particular island called Starbuck. For, unbeknownst to them (which the author found out later)–had they landed there, they would have encountered unbearable screaming of seabirds, extreme heat and blinding sunlight.
Read the book to learn how the men fared on their journeys.