The book is fascinating, but very long. I had to read it in small sections, but for history buffs, it's a great read.
I'm a big Horatio Hornblower fan, so it was interesting to hear about merchant shipping it the same era. Plus the glossary is very helpful - actually more helpful than the Horatio Companion & biography.
A powerful story of sailing's joys and hardships in the early 1800s.
This was a really excellent book. It's a true story, written by a young man who took time off his studies at Harvard to ship as a common seaman on a merchant marine in 1834.
Upon his return, he wrote the book to, in part, counter the popular, romanticized ideas of life at sea. Dana said that most sea literature of the time was written from the perspective of an officer or captain, and wanted to point out that the view from the forecastle was quite different. He set out to show the reality of the day-to-day drudgery of a sailor's life, and also to advocate for justice and fair treatment for sailors.
Although to describe it as "an account of day-to-day drudgery" doesn't sound that exciting, it's an amazingly fascinating book, full of the details of a now-vanished way of life - both at sea, and on the coast of California, where his merchant ship spent long toil acquiring their cargo of steer hides to bring back at great risk, around Cape Horn and back to Boston.
My only complaint, from a reader's perspective, is that at times Dana is vague about the personal details of some of his shipmates and acquaintances - probably out of courtesy, as he was publishing while most of the men he speaks of were still alive. (Although not everyone is shown in the most flattering of lights). The book was an enormous best-seller (much more so than he expected) at the time, and it includes an Afterword written 24 years later - and it's rather amusing, how, in that section, he is much more careful to speak well of people!
This book gives a good history of early California and sailing. It includes the work of the sailors and their hardships. It is an autobiography.