The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian
The Thirteen Gun Salute
by Patrick O'Brian starts with the Surprise setting off from Shelmerston. The Surprise looked like a Royal Naval ship but was really a private man-of-war under a letter of marque, a privateer. Her people were exempt from being impressed, as she was going to the South seas under orders from the government to harass French and American whalers. Off Ireland they give chase to a Snow and end up going all the way around Ireland, past Inishtrahull, the Garvans, Malin Head and then Jack Aubrey gives the order to head due West in a South-West wind towards Lisbon in Portugal. She ran at seven knots with topsails and courses only. They sight the Berlings, a set of cruel jagged rocks and sail into Lisbon Harbor.
At Lisbon they receive new orders to go to Pulo Prabang, a fictional island in the South China Sea, a piratical Malay state. They are to take an envoy in the Diane. Captain Tom Pullings is to sail the Surprise around the Horn to the South Pacific and meet with Jack after they have dealt with the situation in the South China Sea. Jack Aubrey , Stephen Maturin, Bonden, and Killick go by land to Corunna in Spain and board the cutter the Nimble, fourteen guns, 200 tons with topgallants and royals on the tall single mast. She was 70 feet long, with a beam of 24 foot. Soon they pass the Ushant and dock in Portsmouth.
They set off from Portsmouth in the Diane and gain Inaccessible Island , Tristan de Cunha (57 degrees 6' South, 12 degrees 17' West) which has thousand foot sheer cliffs around her, no landing places. They keep well over to the Brazil side of the Atlantic, pass Cape San Roque, and the south-east trades carry them down to the forties with their strong constant westerly winds, missing the Cape of Good Hope altogether, hoping that their supplies last. They reach 42 degrees 15' South, 8 degrees 35' West after a week of mild topgallant and royal breezes. After a massive lightning storm at 45 deg South, they turn East at 46 deg 39' South and the Diane is racing to the east-south-east at 12 knots on a long moderate swell. Because of icebergs they eventually steer North-east. At 39d South, they start looking for Amsterdam Island(37d 47'South) but miss it during the night and only see it astern and cannot turn back. They reach Java and sail into Batavia Harbour.
After Batavia they sail through the Thousand Islands, the Tulang Shoal, go between Banka and Sumatra. This was dangerous shallow waters and the Diane had a draft of fifteen feet nine inches. They reach Pulo Prabang which is a supposed island between Banka and Singapore. I do not find Patrick O'Brian's descriptions of this island very realistic or feasible. The culture seems more akin to those of the Malay mainland such as those of Johore Bahru or Melacca. It seems to me more of a fantasy than any basis in reality and is a lame departure from O'Brian's usually solid research. After their business in Pulo Prabang they sail ENE for their rendezvous with the Surprise. The book ends at the False Natunas somewhere between Bangka and Billiton. The next book is
The Nutmeg of Consolation .
Fortune Of War
Far Side of World
Reverse of Medal
Letter of Marque
13 Gun Salute
Nutmeg of Consolation