Peter Moore

‘Great South Land of the Holy Spirit’

The Savage Shore: Extraordinary Stories of Survival and Tragedy from the Early Voyages of Discovery

By Graham Seal

Yale University Press 298pp £20 order from our bookshop

In August 1699, the English adventurer William Dampier and the crew of HMS Roebuck, a twenty-six-gun warship, sailed into an uncharted bay on the far side of the world. It was Dampier’s second visit to this land, which he knew loosely as New Holland. Determined to document some of the flora, he spent about a week in the bay. His party caught turtles, rays and sharks, one of which, Dampier noted, was ‘11-foot long’. Cutting open the shark’s throat, Dampier was startled to find inside it ‘the head and bones of a hippopotamus; the hairy lips of which were still sound’.

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