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The Daily Aubrey-Maturin: Desolation Island (Book 5), Chapters 3-5 (pg. 1639-1737)

Your daily dose of off-topic shenanigans

Peak of Fogo Cape de Verde Island from the S.S.E.
Peak of Fogo Cape de Verde Island from the S.S.E., Print made by James Baily, active 1815–1834, 1814
Photo by: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


The voyage is under way, and it’s a bit of a select crew for Aubrey, or at least until someone pulls rank and takes 100 of his volunteers away at the last minute (to replaced by draftees). Still, the all-stars are all here, including Pullington, Babbington, Killick, and of course Maturin.

The mission at hand is to deliver some convicts to convict island, a.k.a. Australia. Certainly not an impossible mission, though one that Jack isn’t too enthused about. But hey, a tropical vacation along the way! There are three — *gasp* — women among the prisoners, too, including Mrs. Wogan, who was caught doing a bit of treason and stealing state secrets by sleeping with an Admiral. Stephen worries that she might thus know of his own secret agenting, but it looks like she’s unaware. However, the fact the she was an acquaintance of Diana’s, and also looks like her, continues to unsettle the good doctor.

Things then get a bit more complicated when the Leopard runs into a big storm in the Bay of Biscay. There’s no damage to ship or sailor, but amid the thunder and lighting and everything frightening, the convicts manage to kill their superintendent (who was treating them roughly), while the physio assigned to them also falls during the storm and dies. Not the safest occupation!

So Jack and Stephen take over as super and surgeon for the prisoners as well, and set about treating them a bit better. That’s a good move, especially as we get plenty of foreshadowing over shipwrecks and maroonings and mutinies, with the HMS Bounty referenced in universe. Dun dun DUN!


The Leopard reaches Cabo Verde without any trouble, where they stop to resupply. But discipline becomes a bit lax afterwards, especially with Mrs Wogan catching the eye of many a lonely sailor. Floggings are administered but that ain’t stopping the horniness. We learn that 9 out of 10 are into the bit of the old ultra-violence anyway.

Meanwhile, Aubrey gets to rescue another man overboard, with young Herapath, the stowaway (and apparently also the lover of Mrs Wogan?) falling from the yardarm. Maturin also reveals that he’s been charged by the Admiralty to interrogate Mrs Wogan, which he intends to do by becoming friendly with her first (not in that way ... for now).

But amid all that petty drama, we have something very serious brewing. Three men have come down with “gaol fever”: typhus! Antibiotics have not been invented yet!


The typhus ravages the ship’s crew, taking dozens and dozens with it — including Maturin’s assistant, Martin. Over 60 remain in the sickbay, recovering, but Maturin’s fresh out of any medicine, so they have to pull over in Recife, Brazil. Aubrey barely has people to cover his guns.

In Recife, they run into the Nymph, which tells them of a Dutch warship named Waakzaamheid that chased them and presumably remains in the area. Nothing to reinvigorate a ship like the promise of battle.




But why

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