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Two Years Before the Mast - A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (circa 1840) -- includes new Annotated bibliography on Voyages and Travel PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Two Years Before the Mast - A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (circa 1840) -- includes new Annotated bibliography on Voyages and Travel
Author: Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Publisher: Published December 12th 2010 (first published 1840)
ISBN: null
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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This digital book includes an annotated bibliography of select works on the subject of Voyages and Travel (added 2011). CONTENTS Introduction Biographical Note California and her Missions Bibliographical References Diagram of Ships Explanation of Diagram Two Years Before the Mast Twenty-Four Years After

30 review for Two Years Before the Mast - A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (circa 1840) -- includes new Annotated bibliography on Voyages and Travel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    “The utmost was required of every man in the way of his duty.” “Two Years Before The Mast” was not always an enjoyable read for me, but overall it was a good one, and maybe even a necessary one. Published in 1840, this book is the account of Richard Henry Dana, a Harvard graduate, who spent two years as a regular sailor on a merchant ship in the mid-1830s. This text is a slow read at times and often, especially early on, very repetitive. Thus it took me a while to really get into it. However, it “The utmost was required of every man in the way of his duty.” “Two Years Before The Mast” was not always an enjoyable read for me, but overall it was a good one, and maybe even a necessary one. Published in 1840, this book is the account of Richard Henry Dana, a Harvard graduate, who spent two years as a regular sailor on a merchant ship in the mid-1830s. This text is a slow read at times and often, especially early on, very repetitive. Thus it took me a while to really get into it. However, it is an interesting anthropological study of the life of an American merchant vessel in the 1830s. Mr. Dana was not really a writer, so I can forgive some of the elements of his style that I found grating to read. For example, for most readers Mr. Dana gives too much specific and very detailed information on the smallest details of sailing, pulling in sails, (especially during storms) minute details of ship life, etc. I could not begin to understand a lot of it. Historically valuable, Yes. Interesting to me, No. Some praises for the book- I really enjoyed the chapter “California and its Inhabitants. This chapter focuses on the people of what was at that time a foreign country. It reveals a lot about the attitudes of the period, and was fascinating. I also liked how much the text kept reinforcing the Yankee work ethic. Hard work and hardship did not bug these men. The only thing that seems to really upset them is treatment that denies them dignity. I love that! I believe the book really hits its stride in the last quarter. Dana’s descriptions of icebergs is simply beautiful writing. No way around it. In chapter 32, “Doubling Cape Horn” we read one of the most exciting and interesting aspects in the entire piece. Dana is concise and to the point in this chapter, and it works well. The original last chapter of the text also offers some interesting thoughts on religion and its ability to aid the life of a sailor and it also cautions the reader against judging the economic value of sailing or overregulating it when they don’t know much about it. It is fascinating. “Two Years Before The Mast” was an intriguing read. I feel my understanding of the world, and early America, is a little broader. For that, I am glad I read it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rick Skwiot

    In a way, the best thing for a writer is misfortune. In that regard, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. got lucky. A young Harvard man, he signed on as a common seaman aboard the brig Pilgrim, bound for California from Boston, to help improve his health. Had it been smooth sailing over benign seas under a wise and beneficent captain, with good food and a leisurely stay on California beaches, we likely would never have heard of Dana. But, thanks to the treacherous and icy waters of Cape Horn, a power hungry c In a way, the best thing for a writer is misfortune. In that regard, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. got lucky. A young Harvard man, he signed on as a common seaman aboard the brig Pilgrim, bound for California from Boston, to help improve his health. Had it been smooth sailing over benign seas under a wise and beneficent captain, with good food and a leisurely stay on California beaches, we likely would never have heard of Dana. But, thanks to the treacherous and icy waters of Cape Horn, a power hungry captain keen on flogging his men on slight pretence, a year of hard labor hauling hides in anarchic California (still part of Mexico in 1834, the year Dana sailed), and shipboard living conditions that today's Supreme Court would find cruel and unusual, Dana and his work have remained icons in American literature and history. (To wit, re living conditions: When he and his shipmates mistakenly believe war has broken out with France and they might be captured and spend time in a French prison, they view the prospect as a pleasant break from their hard routines and shipboard incarceration.) Part of the lasting success of this book lies in its rich complexity: part memoir of a privileged youth's right of passage into full manhood; part sociological treatise on the people and politics of Mexico; part polemic and muckraking journalism exposing the indignities, injustices and virtual slavery suffered by merchant sailors; part technical manual on sailing; part travel narrative; and part detailed history of commerce on the high seas circa 1835. For example: -We learn much about mizenmasts, marlinespikes, and the how-to of sailing a brig (more, perhaps, than a landlubber cares to know). -We see a California without streets or, for that matter, firm laws, but with a rigid Mexican social hierarchy of criollos, mestizos, and Indians--the last often literal slaves--as well as a smattering of Yankees, Hawaiian sailors, drunks, deadbeats, murderers, and rogues. -We are given the particulars of a booming hide trade--the tanning, hauling, and loading in which Dana is forced to participate. -We glimpse the endless work of the common seaman and the absolute power of ship captains, which, in the case of the Pilgrim's skipper, culminates in a mean-spirited tyranny. -We share a perilous winter passage around Cape Horn and the Straits of Magellan, through great, iceberg-littered fog banks, driving rain and snow, and mean seas, where the perpetually sodden and frigid seamen must negotiate pitching iced decks and rigging to perform their never-ending, life-threatening tasks. -We view avarice, duplicity, ignorance, and cruelty, albeit leavened by loyalty, generosity, friendship, and perseverance. In that way, and more, Dana's tale is a microcosm of the human condition: a seemingly endless and at times pointless journey on a small ark afloat in perilous seas, filled with ceaseless toil yet anointed with sublime natural beauty. Dana's descriptions of the seas, skies, and landscapes often turn poetic. In fact, most all the language of Two Years Before the Mast tends toward the formal and writerly. For despite it being a journal of a common seaman, Dana is an uncommon jack-tar, with a Harvard education, bourgeois manners, and Boston connections that keep him, just barely, from spending another two years in California hauling hides. (Some of his not-so-well-connected mates, from whom he always keeps a distance, at least in his mind and in his journal, were not so lucky.) The reader never forgets Dana's Boston background, as he spouts Latin and quotes English poets. Although this book was the first to give us a seaman's, not the captain's, point of view, the language is not that of a seaman, and it will be another 45 years before Huck Finn comes to free us all from formal Boston English. Though nominally an American, Dana exhibits a tone, demeanor and delicacy more English than Yank. (A possible influence: his lawyer father, who argued for an American monarchy and a House of Lords.) This delicacy also leads Dana to omit from his narrative most anything that might cast him in a common light--such as his consorting with Indian prostitutes in California. But Dana's great fortune as a writer was, seemingly, his misfortune as a gentleman. Upon returning to Boston, he graduated first in his class at Harvard, became a celebrity with the publication of Two Years Before the Mast in 1840, married, and became a prosperous Boston lawyer. However, he never seemed to settle into a life of propriety, as if inoculated against it on his rough and formative two-year voyage. This unresolved inner conflict apparently resulted in a series of nervous breakdowns, which he cured with long sea voyages. Yet we sense this conflict between his upper-crust snobbery and his genuine affection for the rigorous life and his vigorous shipmates seething beneath the surface throughout his journal. We see a young man made over by his experience--a patrician who, in his heart, becomes a common sailor, but one who never comes to relinquish his previous social status and persona. For most memoirs to succeed, the reader must be convinced that the author has set off on a sincere sojourn of personal discovery, to find his or her true self. Here, in Two Years Before the Mast, we see that discovery take place before our eyes, even if the author never fully admits it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    brendan

    this book is absolutely essential for anyone who has any desire of stepping off the quarterdeck of his historical fiction (O'Brien novels) and heading down to the focs'l to hear about sailing traditional ships from the men who were actually sweating lines, heave-yo-ho-ing, and climbing the rigging to furl the royals before a gale. dana passes the equator four times over the two years that he is a merchant mariner sailing to, the then mexican owned california, to load his ship with hides bound this book is absolutely essential for anyone who has any desire of stepping off the quarterdeck of his historical fiction (O'Brien novels) and heading down to the focs'l to hear about sailing traditional ships from the men who were actually sweating lines, heave-yo-ho-ing, and climbing the rigging to furl the royals before a gale. dana passes the equator four times over the two years that he is a merchant mariner sailing to, the then mexican owned california, to load his ship with hides bound for boston's leather factories. the narrative style is straight forward and matter of fact. dana hardly lets his bias sit between the reader and the tale. filled with technical sail handling language the amateur mariner might choose to read up on square sail theory before reading or merely depend upon his imagination. dana provides a vivid description of pre U.S. california and the hide trade that provided americans with their first contacts with the pacific coast (not the western colonization or the gold rush) and some supplementary essays by dana show, upon his return 10 or so years later) how the settlements thrived around the embryonic ports of san franscisco, san diego, etc. ultimately, an engaging travel narrative, providing a particular flavor for the modern equivalent of the author in the matter-of-fact 1st person narrative characteristic of the genre before twain.

  4. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    Mr. Richard Dana Jr. or Dana as his shipmates called him, is a man I would like to know. Based on his autobiographical Two Years Before the Mast, a recounting of his 1834-1836, seagoing-adventures aboard the Pilgrim (outbound) and Alert (return), Mr. Dana was a popular, hard-working, man’s man able to tell a tale. While attending Harvard, he contracted measles weakening his eyesight, choosing to become an ordinary seaman on a two year voyage to California—then the farthest hinterlands—for his ‘ Mr. Richard Dana Jr. or Dana as his shipmates called him, is a man I would like to know. Based on his autobiographical Two Years Before the Mast, a recounting of his 1834-1836, seagoing-adventures aboard the Pilgrim (outbound) and Alert (return), Mr. Dana was a popular, hard-working, man’s man able to tell a tale. While attending Harvard, he contracted measles weakening his eyesight, choosing to become an ordinary seaman on a two year voyage to California—then the farthest hinterlands—for his ‘recovery’. This wasn’t the only odd (well to me anyway) medicinal prescription used back then either. How does a teaspoon of raw potatoes and onions beaten to pulp, administered every hour and held in one’s mouth as long as possible, strike you as a cure for scurvy, for a patient in the very last stages? When you are desperate, you do what you have to, right? (view spoiler)[It worked! (hide spoiler)] This was one of the most interesting books dear husband and I have listened to in a long time. We both learned so much. Although we’ve neither of us ever had the least desire to ‘go to sea’ – and this book only confirmed that for us – we appreciated what these men endured and Dana is the most meticulous of observer-narrators. He kept a very detailed journal throughout. Do you know what reefing a sail is? I do now! His descriptions of icebergs were praised by Herman Melville. Wherever he went, Dana was friendly and eager to help without regard to social class or race; he was also curious to visit all places of worship, respecting various religious traditions, characteristics setting him above men of his or any age. There is also a 24 years later Epilogue where Dana returns to the California and to recount the changes which have occurred in the intervening years. He concludes with a brief update on what happened to some of his mates, those he was able to locate. Without being the least bit sentimental, the author is a very empathic man, concerned for all and saddened by many things he sees. It was the main reason he wrote the book—to address the injustices borne by the ordinary sailors. After he was admitted to the bar in 1840, he went on to specialize in maritime law, and defended many common seamen in court. Excellent book. Admirable author. 5+ stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book made me cry multiple times, but not for the direct subject matter. I think there were just a few too many references to the California coast described in enough detail that the effect was to pry out long-lingering ghosts haunting the coastline of my own isle of denial. his descriptions are never quite up to the par of his literary contemporaries, but the detail leaves any California-lover desperately lamenting the irretrievable passage of those first rough-and-tumble times that "modern This book made me cry multiple times, but not for the direct subject matter. I think there were just a few too many references to the California coast described in enough detail that the effect was to pry out long-lingering ghosts haunting the coastline of my own isle of denial. his descriptions are never quite up to the par of his literary contemporaries, but the detail leaves any California-lover desperately lamenting the irretrievable passage of those first rough-and-tumble times that "modern man" first began journeying to that area of the world. Dana's description of first arriving in San Francisco made me shiver, and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The complete and utter irretrievability of that outpost wilderness fills me with something more than sadness and something less than rage. The book itself is a fascinating look at pre-gold rush California, and Dana treats the California coastline and journey there and back from Boston as a sort of seafaring pioneer narrative. it is cast in plain terms and he calls things as he sees them. the concept of an intelligent, thoughtful voice penning such a journey, as opposed to what I would assume might typically be the voice of an ignorant, uneducated sailor, gives the story a fresh slant. as the journey progresses on, there are moments where Dana's amusement with the whole situation wears quite thin and the reality of the possibility in becoming a career sailor inches just too close to reality for his comfort. it is in these moments that his true humanity shines through. This is an excellent read for any twentysomething who is still not convinced of what their life and career should look like.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Manray9

    Two Years before the Mast is a captivating account of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s service as a common sailor on a voyage from Boston to the California coast in the early 1830s. The long expositions on the technical aspects of navigation under canvas may not be of interest to those without familiarity with maritime life, but his personal narrative of daily life aboard a sailing vessel and the work of the cowhide trade in early California make the book worthwhile. Two Years before the Mast is an exc Two Years before the Mast is a captivating account of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s service as a common sailor on a voyage from Boston to the California coast in the early 1830s. The long expositions on the technical aspects of navigation under canvas may not be of interest to those without familiarity with maritime life, but his personal narrative of daily life aboard a sailing vessel and the work of the cowhide trade in early California make the book worthwhile. Two Years before the Mast is an excellent non-fiction counterpart to the novels of Patrick O’Brian and Captain Marryat’s Mr. Midshipman Easy. I recommend it to those with an interest in nautical life in the days of sail.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I read part of this in Jr HS, then all of it after I graduated from college; my Shakespeare teacher (38 plays in the full year course) asked me, as he read it, why so much reference to the "lee scuppers." For a beginning sailor like me, an easy answer: those are the drains that fill because of the heel of the boat away from windward. (By the way, sailor's usage for "going wrong," say gambling "blown hard to Lee.") I recall how Dana records the loss of their first crewman off South America; this, I read part of this in Jr HS, then all of it after I graduated from college; my Shakespeare teacher (38 plays in the full year course) asked me, as he read it, why so much reference to the "lee scuppers." For a beginning sailor like me, an easy answer: those are the drains that fill because of the heel of the boat away from windward. (By the way, sailor's usage for "going wrong," say gambling "blown hard to Lee.") I recall how Dana records the loss of their first crewman off South America; this, from a small crew, perhaps 15? As soon as they got on deck after the news, the sailor's clothes were auctioned. (No time for sentiment onboard, as RHD says.) Then I recall the great joy of their tea and molasses, or after reefing the topsail, some grog (with rum). The weather around Cape Horn was abysmal, with big seas and sleet and snow, but they were on their way to pick up hides dropped down from the high coast of Santa Barbara. Dana observes that if the Californians ever learn to make shoes, their services will no longer be required: shipping hides, taking them around Cape Horn to New England to be made into shoes, which are then shipped around Cape Horn to be sold to the Californians. Dana observes that Spanish/Californian culture is not workers: there are the upper class owners, then the servants and slaves of other ethnicities. (A century earlier, John Adams in Galicia observes that the only ones thriving are the clerics of numerous churches, convents etc.) The fear of the captain and mates, the appreciation of the cook and his tea, the hard work and danger aloft--these remain with me fifty years after reading Dana. I did get down the coast to Dana Point, CA where I was impressed how the mock-up of the brig Pilgrim was even smaller than I envisioned.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Mickens

    Historically unique and surprisingly readable first-person account of life at sea on a merchant vessel 1834-36, sailing from Boston, around Cape Horn and up and down the undeveloped, cowhide-disgorging California coast. Most versions also include an equally interesting Afterward, in which the now-40something author returns to California in 1859, post-statehood and post-Gold Rush. Having heard the book's title referenced for years, I'd always assumed it was a fictional adventure tale, but, no, it Historically unique and surprisingly readable first-person account of life at sea on a merchant vessel 1834-36, sailing from Boston, around Cape Horn and up and down the undeveloped, cowhide-disgorging California coast. Most versions also include an equally interesting Afterward, in which the now-40something author returns to California in 1859, post-statehood and post-Gold Rush. Having heard the book's title referenced for years, I'd always assumed it was a fictional adventure tale, but, no, it's a first-person memoir. Surprisingly modern in some ways; in other respects, disturbingly old-fashioned. As far as I know, there are no other contemporary books in English with as much detail on California during the years between Mexican independence and USA statehood. And, as Dana himself explains, details on merchant ships' grueling and often merciless conditions during the Age of Sail -- from the perspective of the common sailor -- were not, and are not, widely available. Beyond this broad overview, there's a lot to unpack and assess here, considering that this is both a literary work (very popular in its day and for decades after) as well as a primary source with a mostly trustworthy but not-perfectly-reliable narrator. My five stars aren't because the book is perfect, but because of its uniqueness, and because the text in past & present context offers rich analytical opportunity. Maybe I'll get to a longer analysis soon, but if not, give the book a try. As mentioned, I expected it to a skimmable slog, but was surprised to, for the most part, actually enjoy it. It's old enough to be in the public domain, so Kindle, EPUB and other electronic versions can be gotten for free or cheap in many places. (I got a 99c Kindle version.) Paradoxically, reading this 19thC text via an e-reader app is probably the best way to do it, because you can use the built-in dictionary function to look up much of the archaic and nautical terminology.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This book didn't give me the thrill I was hoping for; it's not exactly The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. Just as much time is spent on land as at sea, engaged in the hides trade, visiting with Spanish and Indian locals, riding horses, attending wedding fandangoes. Dana's writing is missing some vital spark. There is also so much sailing and ship-equipment terminology that entire paragraphs would go by where I had to guess what was going on, since the language didn't really This book didn't give me the thrill I was hoping for; it's not exactly The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea. Just as much time is spent on land as at sea, engaged in the hides trade, visiting with Spanish and Indian locals, riding horses, attending wedding fandangoes. Dana's writing is missing some vital spark. There is also so much sailing and ship-equipment terminology that entire paragraphs would go by where I had to guess what was going on, since the language didn't really help me. The nice sectional drawings of the hulls of the Pilgrim and Alert were helpful, showing the cabin, steerage, 'tween-decks, and forecastle. A few things struck me. 1) Most of the sailors sewed their own clothes for the return voyage, including tarpaulins and hats. The edition I read contained a photo of Dana's white duck sailor suit. Martha Stewart would be proud. 2) Who knew that it took 10-12 men six weeks to load 40,000 hides on board? The sheer amount of time (two years) and labor involved in getting the hides back to the east coast is astonishing. 3) On the return trip the men are so starved for fruits and vegetables that after stopping to procure some onions and potatoes from a passing ship, they eat the raw onions like apples (and nothing ever tasted so delicious). 4) Dana and his fellow sailor-friend Benjamin Stimson (who I gather is an ancestor of the statesman Henry L. Stimson?) are slumming. They're Harvard boys among mostly uneducated sailors. Dana's classmates included James Russell Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Dana would eventually graduate at the head of his class. My edition contained a photo of the Dana residence in Harvard Yard, and it's very impressive - large, white, elegant. Later William James and the Harvard President, Conant, would live there. Yet Dana befriends a fellow sailor, uneducated but brilliant, who bests him in their arguments about the Corn Laws and other topics. 5) I'm in awe of how insanely clean sailing ships were kept. I want a 19th century sailor to clean my house for me every week. I was more interested in the crew's encounters with historical context than in the seafaring itself. The ship is completely disconnected from news of the outside world; when they do get letters from home, they're already six months old. So when in 1836 Dana gets his hands on some newspapers from "the city of Mexico," he is bewildered to see Taney (Roger B.) referred to as "Justicia Mayor de los Estados Unidos." What had become of Marshall (John), he wondered. "Was he dead, or banished?" (Dead.) Then, in September 1836, they encounter the brig Solon near Bermuda and ask its men who is President. They respond, "Andrew Jackson." But "thinking the old general could not have been elected a third time, we hailed again, and they answered, Jack Downing, and left us to correct the mistake at our leisure." Must be an inside joke...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I read this book after reading about it in Kevin Starr's excellent history of California: California and the American Dream as well as reading about it in the foreword to Herman Melville's "White Jacket". White Jacket was, of course, at least partially inspired by this book, and after reading "Two Years" I can certainly see the influence reflected in Dana's work. This book has, essentially, two scenes that are varied throughout the book. The first scene is "life on board the 19th century clipper s I read this book after reading about it in Kevin Starr's excellent history of California: California and the American Dream as well as reading about it in the foreword to Herman Melville's "White Jacket". White Jacket was, of course, at least partially inspired by this book, and after reading "Two Years" I can certainly see the influence reflected in Dana's work. This book has, essentially, two scenes that are varied throughout the book. The first scene is "life on board the 19th century clipper ship". Examples include: The tyranny of the captain (most notably), travelling around the cape, the daily routine (monotony of), encountering other ships, talking to the other sailors, the daily routine (complaining about), and so forth. As far as I'm concerned, Dana handles this subject just about as well as anybody COULD handle this subject. I would be lying if I said I understood all of the sailing vocabularly (how many sails did they have on those clipper ships? To me, it sounded like about a thousand or so!). None the less, life on a ship is life on a ship. The second scene is Dana's interaction with the California coast. Were this book merely a description of life at sea, I probably would not have read it. According to Starr, this book was the ONLY English language book written about California at the time of the gold rush of 1848, and so it plays a prominent (though largely forgotten(?)) part in the shaping of the image of California in the minds of Americans (and if you want to see where I'm cribbing this from see the Starr book pgs. 38-47 thereabouts). When Dana sails into San Francisco at the time of this book, there was one (1!) house in the entire Bay Area. That's impressive. We also get first hand descriptions of Santa Barbara and San Diego (where I live), that are unique. Dana treats the residents of California as one might expect from a wealthy white dude from the east coast of the U.S.: The Mexicans/Spanish are "noble" but "lazy" and the indians are nearly beneath mention. Dana is quick to see the potential in California but equally as quick to dismiss the current residents as hopelessly lazy. At one point Dana refers to the "California Disease"(laziness). By the end of his time on the coast, he is calling California "Hell". That probably has more to do with his daily work (processing hides) then California itself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Abrahamus

    This book is, I suppose, something of a family favorite. It was a favorite of my father's and became one of mine as well. R. H. Dana was a student at Harvard in the 1830s who, following an illness which compromised his eyesight and forced an extended leave from study, signed on as a rank-and-file seaman aboard a merchant vessel bound to California via the arduous passage around Cape Horn. The book is delightful both as a portrait of life at sea in the days of sail and as a sketch of California a This book is, I suppose, something of a family favorite. It was a favorite of my father's and became one of mine as well. R. H. Dana was a student at Harvard in the 1830s who, following an illness which compromised his eyesight and forced an extended leave from study, signed on as a rank-and-file seaman aboard a merchant vessel bound to California via the arduous passage around Cape Horn. The book is delightful both as a portrait of life at sea in the days of sail and as a sketch of California as it was before the Gold Rush of 1849. I traveled to California for the first time shortly after reading this book, and Dana's account greatly enriched the experience. One of the high points of that trip was a visit to the mission of Santa Barbara and its beautiful old fountain, from which Dana had watered his own horse during an excursion ashore some 160 years prior.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Koen Kop

    Some call this youth literature. If so, at age fifty-eight I must still have a very young heart (and mind?). I learned a lot about the gruesome existence of sailors in the mid-19th century. Found the philosophical observations of this young writer very astute.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Still

    I need to re-read this novel. As a teenager it was one of my favorites.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Rigsby

    For anyone interested in sea stories, the early victorian era, or the history of California, this book is required reading. Dana does a great job conveying the specificity and nuances of his work at sea without ever coming off as self-important or boring. His observations of Mexican California are fascinating, and one gets the sense of Dana's genuine curiosity about the languages and customs of this land so far removed from what he had known in Boston. He even picks up a little Spanish along wit For anyone interested in sea stories, the early victorian era, or the history of California, this book is required reading. Dana does a great job conveying the specificity and nuances of his work at sea without ever coming off as self-important or boring. His observations of Mexican California are fascinating, and one gets the sense of Dana's genuine curiosity about the languages and customs of this land so far removed from what he had known in Boston. He even picks up a little Spanish along with his marlin spike seamanship. Good for him. As wonderful as the descriptions are, Dana is not afraid to describe the brutality he sees as well, recording in painful detail the whippings and other discipline meted out aboard a vessel run by a power-hungry captain, and the grief and vacant sense of loss after a man is lost overboard in a heavy sea. All told it's a great yarn, particularly if you already have a strong grasp of nautical vocabulary, and are at least vaguely familiar with the geography and topography of the California coast. Read it! http://joshuarigsby.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    I believe this was one of the books that my 8th grade teacher, Mr. Bailey, recommended to me back in the 50s. For some reason I remembered the names of the books he recommended but never read any until I was in my 70s. I can still remember taking them off the book shelf at the Paso Robles Library and placing them back on the shelf. I remember the exact shelf. You walked into the library, made a right turn into another room, and it was on the first end shelf along with "Kon-Tiki" and "The Raft"-- I believe this was one of the books that my 8th grade teacher, Mr. Bailey, recommended to me back in the 50s. For some reason I remembered the names of the books he recommended but never read any until I was in my 70s. I can still remember taking them off the book shelf at the Paso Robles Library and placing them back on the shelf. I remember the exact shelf. You walked into the library, made a right turn into another room, and it was on the first end shelf along with "Kon-Tiki" and "The Raft"--both other recommendations by him. Mr. Bailey's one other recommendation was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. I have not read "Silent Spring." I tried. Mr. Bailey was also my favorite teacher, and I was always going around saying, "Mr. Bailey said..." And now I wish I had kept in contact with him. But this was a boring read with little action and emotion involved. If you like history and information on ships and life aboard one, you may like it. If you like adventure, well, I didn’t think there was much in this book. I would think that many would like the Hornblower series, or “Treasure Island” over this, and for true adventures, “Kon Tiki,” "The Raft, "Paddle to the Amazon” and “Mutiny of the Bounty.” But if a person wanted to know what daily life as a sailor was like on board a ship in the 1800s, well, this book could be for you. I questioned how he could write a diary on ship and not get caught. He wrote about the cruelty of the captain towards the men. He also wrote about a man on board, who he knew had jumped ship and had hid out on the coast line of California until the ship left, and on his return trip his learning that the man got on another ship would arrive to take him home. If his diary was found it would have been the end of him, but maybe he just took notes and remembered to fill in the blanks later. Here is a gem from this book: The author came upon a few of the Kanaka tribe of Hawaii while in San Diego, and wrote: “Whatever one has they all have, money, food, clothes, they share with one another, even to the last piece of tobacco to put in their pipes.” One of them said, “Kanaka all ‘e same a’ one!” I liked the sharing and wondered what this world would be like if we all took care of each others needs. I had to pass up the cock fighting and the killing of coyotes, but the fact that California is replete with rattlesnakes interested me. He was in the woods chopping down a tree when he heard a rattlesnake. He just kept chopping because at least he knew where it was, sort of, and he felt as long as he could hear the rattle he was safe. When the rattling stopped he became unnerved, so he threw a rock in the area where the sound came from, and it began rattling again. California hasn’t changed much over the years. One person, who lived along the coast in an RV park on Camp Pendleton, told me he would walk outside in the morning and there would be several rattlesnakes on his patio. Since he was on a nature preserve he could not kill them. A Buddhist monk, who is a friend of mine, once told me that he walked out of his room just to run into one, and since they didn’t believe in killing, he had to walk around it. I had seen several in California over the years as I grew up there. Once I was gathering fire wood and came to the bottom of the pile. There was a rattlesnake curled up asleep. I got my shotgun and called a friend to ask if the shot would ricochet off the tin shed or go through it. I didn't know how powerful buckshot was. I pulled the trigger, picked up the snake with a shovel, and buried it. Later, I heard my dog barking, so I went outside, and the snake was half out of the ground, twisting in the air. That is when I cut off its head and buried it separately from the body. If the snake and kept squirming I was afraid that it could accidently bite the dog. In this part of California where I lived, in Creston, farmers threw the dead ones over their fence that runs along the road so people can see them. Maybe that is like notches on a gun butt. And these stories ran through my head as I read the book because I was trying to humor myself since I was so bored. And then the book continued to move at a slow pace, and I was counting the time on my kindle like a person watching their watch when bored. I wanted to finish it reading because I had owned the book for many years. As a note: I admire that the author became a lawyer and fought for the rights of sailors and slaves. He also wrote the book, “The Seaman's Friend: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship” which was a reference book for legal enquiries on the legal rights and responsivities of sailors. It may be good to read this first if you need to understand sea terms, which, if you did not know them, it may also make “Two Years before the Mast” an even harder read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Two years into Harvard, in 1834, Dana is advised that further studying by candlelight will blind him. So he quits to work in the world outside of Cambridge--the world of real men. The book is astonishing in so many ways: that it's literate; that he survives sailing around the Great Horn; that he survives the near empty, but still dangerous, American West coast killing cows for their hides; that he advances from the lower deck (a common sailor) to an officer. Dana returns to Massachusetts two year Two years into Harvard, in 1834, Dana is advised that further studying by candlelight will blind him. So he quits to work in the world outside of Cambridge--the world of real men. The book is astonishing in so many ways: that it's literate; that he survives sailing around the Great Horn; that he survives the near empty, but still dangerous, American West coast killing cows for their hides; that he advances from the lower deck (a common sailor) to an officer. Dana returns to Massachusetts two years later a different man--a writer, lawyer, and advocate for downtrodden seaman and slaves.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Rereading this book is a real pleasure. Dana was an extraordinarily good writer, his images so clear that it is easy to follow the complicated life aboard ship. It is of especial interest, I think, to California residents, as he spent most of his time sailing up and back along the coast, and thus describes what well-known cities were like during his time of visitation. One of his frequent stops was just a few miles from me--and the house still exists, now protected.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    Dana leaves Harvard to spend two years as a sailor, learning the hard life of the uneducated. A rather boring book. Written in the 1830s. This is called an American classic, and it is soothing, in a way. Lots of descriptions of ships, storms and sailor customs. Almost no dialogue. Life on a ship is monotonous – and so is this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Villines

    Second Reading: April 11, 2014 Two Years Before the Mast is somewhat unique in that my enjoyment of this book is mostly related to the fact that this book exists. I say this as a native Californian with roots that reach back into Mexico. Two Years provides a snapshot of one point along my ancestral past. It's truly fortunate that Dana, a member of the educated professional class of the early 1800s, decided to remedy his eye fatigue by taking one of the lowest working class positions of the time: a Second Reading: April 11, 2014 Two Years Before the Mast is somewhat unique in that my enjoyment of this book is mostly related to the fact that this book exists. I say this as a native Californian with roots that reach back into Mexico. Two Years provides a snapshot of one point along my ancestral past. It's truly fortunate that Dana, a member of the educated professional class of the early 1800s, decided to remedy his eye fatigue by taking one of the lowest working class positions of the time: a common sailor on board a merchant ship. He was completely out of his element both physically as well as intellectually. The sea-terms used in his new capacity as a sailor must have been just as foreign to him as they are to anyone reading this book today. And yet, he still found time to record his experiences and produce this book. The history that this book imparts is mesmerizing. It depicts California as a backwater of Mexico and as an unknown frontier of the United States. The ports that it depicts are unbelievably simplistic in comparison to the development that has transpired over the past 180 years. The only export at the time was cattle hides from ranches located in the vast open plains that are now the inland cities of California. Just 10 years after publication, gold was discovered in California and most of Dana's setting was drastically and irreversibly changed. However, if one looks close enough, Dana's past is still easy to find: San Juan [now known as Dana Point]: San Juan is the only romantic spot on the coast. The country here for several miles is high table-land, running boldly to the shore, and breaking off in a steep cliff, at the foot of which the waters of the Pacific are constantly dashing. For several miles the water washes the very base of the hill, or breaks upon ledges and fragments of rocks which run out into the sea...Having nothing on but shirt, trousers, and hat, the common sea rig of warm weather, I had no stripping to do, and began my descent by taking hold of the rope with both hands, and slipping down, sometimes with hands and feet round the rope, and sometimes breasting off with one hand and foot against the precipice, and holding on to the rope with the other. In this way I descended until I came to a place which shelved in, and in which the hides were lodged. Keeping hold of the rope with one hand, I scrambled in, and by aid of my feet and the other hand succeeded in dislodging all the hides, and continued on my way. --- First Reading: April 28, 2007 This is the uniquely historic view of California as told by Dana prior to the gold rush invasion of 1849. Descriptions of various coastal cities including Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego are provided at a time when cowhides were the only things worthwhile for ships to trade in along the California Coast. The descriptions of California weather patterns are fascinating in that they describe storms that no longer (at least not yet) exist. Also, if you’re looking for good Mexican food, Dana’s account proves that good Mexican food existed in California long before Taco Bell.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Johnson

    not quite the same edition - there are hundreds of various editions of this book - my copy has a slipcover instead of a dust jacket - 926 pages - otherwise the same book. the 5-star rating is for Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea. Dana's writing is first rate. The journals of his other voyages; Cuba and Back, and Journal of a Voyage Round the World, 1859-1860 are also excellent but lack the intensity and poetry of his first book.; 4-stars for those. Outside of a few p not quite the same edition - there are hundreds of various editions of this book - my copy has a slipcover instead of a dust jacket - 926 pages - otherwise the same book. the 5-star rating is for Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea. Dana's writing is first rate. The journals of his other voyages; Cuba and Back, and Journal of a Voyage Round the World, 1859-1860 are also excellent but lack the intensity and poetry of his first book.; 4-stars for those. Outside of a few pages wherein our author gets too churchy; they easily kept my interest. I will have to go through my dozen pages of notes; if only for the mental exercise. Profound respect for the men who built and sailed the wooden sailing ships. Unbelievable derring-do and skill set required just to survive - along with no small amount of good luck. The east to west trip around the Horn in November was one thing but to go from west to east in July was quite another. Two Years before the Mast and other Voyages – Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Around the Horn – East to west – November (summer) 1834-35 Return: west to east – July (winter) – the worst the Horn has to offer, 1836 California, Cuba, China (Hong Kong, Canton, etc.) Japan and return by retracing steps and then on to Singapore, Ceylon, India, Arabian Peninsula, Horn of Africa, Suez, then Europe etc. and return to Boston 926 pages – ‘Two Years’ – 395 pages of the best writing and yarn. Modern feel to the text ‘To Cuba and Back’ - 144 pages ‘Journal of a Voyage Round the World 1859-60’ – 240 pages – outside of Dana’s tedious obsession with church services, he offers an interesting travelogue. ‘Chronology’ – 22 pages – added information, a worthy addition to the text ‘Note on the Texts’ – an explanation of how the books came into being and again, a worthwhile addition ‘Notes’ – 26 pages of more good stuff This book has sat on my shelf for > 5 years; finally read it; wondering what took me so long as it was a most enjoyable read. So much of ‘Two Years’ is indecipherable nautical jargon used to describe the actions involved in operating a three-masted wooden ship during a tempest, but it reads like poetry; to me it just adds to the beauty of the writing. “We furled the royals”. Well, of course they did. Loved it. 1840 – it all seemed a brave new world then; cruel of course. The enslavement of the natives was immediate. Profane, diseased soldiers, sailors, fortune hunters, etc. Most all were prejudiced, violent, & murderous. Still, the land and the Pacific were fresh and pristine. Dana; a Boston Brahmin, joined in the drinking and swiving. Naturally enough, he excised those parts from his published journal. And yet, it remained a good read. Found myself somewhat surprised that Dana had a sense of humor. Page 168, “…in which latter work (cleaning hide-curing vats) we spent two days, up to our knees in mud and sediments of six-months hide-curing, in a stench which would drive an Irish man from his breakfast,” I’m ten-percent Irish so, can I say that? Back then pencil-pushers were called quill-drivers – much more better. I should probably have encountered that disparaging description by now. The shame, the burning shame. A calabozo is a Spanish spa for drunken sailors. I love a book that has the power to transport me to a far-off world that I would, otherwise, never have seen. ‘Two Years’ is such a book. Page 332, the scourge of the yester-year sailor, scurvy, sets in. The happy chance of a passing ship laden with fresh provisions; potatoes, onions; saves the hapless crew. Nice bit of poetry for poor Jack: When for a moment, like a drop of rain He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown Had to google to learn the above had been written by George Gordon Byron, 1788 – 1824. ‘To Cuba and Back’, we are now in the days of the screw-steamer. Oily, beset with bone shaking vibrations and an ear-splitting hammering, Dana found the new sea-going marvel a noisome beast. The steamers still had a full set of sails. Belt and suspenders as it were. Learned much regarding how slavery and the law in Cuba differed from the U.S. South. In 1859, Spain had no slavery. The Cuban officials were all Spanish and favored emancipation. Blacks were allowed military training while the creole weren’t. (The Spanish were ever fearful of a revolution by the island born Spaniards.) A black man’s word was good in court and he could own property. There was much more – how much was true in practice was difficult to know. The island population appeared to be of equal numbers of African and European though, again, actual numbers were hard to prove. Dana’s books sold as travel guides and rightfully so. Next up, the ‘Around the World Voyage’. “My California belt”, that is a belt outfitted with revolver and large knife. Back in those days, California wasn’t quite so laid back. Dana was to find himself wearing his accustomed belt many times during his travels through Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Somewhat surprised to learn that Japan was dangerous country for European peoples to travel through by night. It was an exceedingly dangerous country for evangelizing Christians. Dana never got really sick (though he did sustain a cracked rib aboard ship during a violent storm). He didn’t stay hydrated, it was his lifelong practice to only drink at his meals and then only tea (boiled water). Smart, as most diseases were transferred through polluted water. He could not have known that medical fact, since Germ Theory hadn’t been established, away back then. Just laying out a few odd notes. I’ve said my piece as to the entertainment value of the book and its historical importance. Reading his book, one would think RHD the most religious man ever, however me thinks the truth is that he loved the ladies every bit as much. A pity he couldn’t write the book that would have entertained us all even more. Another funny note: in California the kids were always badgering RHD to buy a lottery ticket; a big deal back then, especially for the slaves, who could only dream of buying their freedom. Tiring of this, I hereby close this tedious book report and am on to my next read. Gosh, but my summer days are just jam packed. But wait, how could I forget? Whilst in China, on page 759, our hero visits the city of Pu Si, because of course he does. Pu Si (alas, it does not google) is, or was, a large city on the Grand Canal. As was the norm, our intrepid travelers were denied admittance (after all there was a war going on – the Opium Wars. And as for the opium, our hero said he tried it but did not inhale??? Holy Bill Clinton Batman; I am without speech. Then why, in God’s name, did he try it? Or is he once again demurring; proclaiming his innocence about that which he, in truth, relished only too much; as with the charming ladies, all the world round. Finally, with the aid of their bilingual friend, a longtime resident of China, they gain entry. They were greeted by the usual sight at the city gate of degraded beggars “…there lay three or four of them…one dead…no one having as of yet taken the trouble to remove the corpse.” Page 771, yet another humorous story of the overly earnest Christian missionaries. Several x-tian sects were attempting to translate the Gospel into Chinese but could not come to agreement as to the proper word for God. Not a minor issue. So, for the time being they left a blank rather than surrender on their particular favorite. The entries: Shang Ti, Shin, or Sin. Bishop Boone was one who believed “Sin” to be the only correct choice. Naturally he & his followers were immediately tagged with the moniker – the Sinners. Page 833, Egypt, Dana writes thus, “…descent, & take our asses for Old Cairo.” Perhaps the indefatigable RHD is himself beginning to poop out. He also stated that the donkey was the sine qua non of Egypt life. My dear fellow, the ass is the sine qua non of life - period. Finding my own ass a dragon, I bid adieu.

  21. 5 out of 5

    James

    Richard Henry Dana tells the story of his trip, subtitled "A Sailor's Life at Sea", in the brig Pilgrim out of Boston in 1834. Only 19 years old, the Harvard student signed on as a deck hand. For the next two years he experienced a sailor's rugged life, traveling around Cape Horn, visiting Mexico's California territory a full 15 years before it became a U.S. state, and returning home in 1836. The Pilgrim was 'a swearing ship', in which the brutal and choleric Captain Thompson imposed his discipl Richard Henry Dana tells the story of his trip, subtitled "A Sailor's Life at Sea", in the brig Pilgrim out of Boston in 1834. Only 19 years old, the Harvard student signed on as a deck hand. For the next two years he experienced a sailor's rugged life, traveling around Cape Horn, visiting Mexico's California territory a full 15 years before it became a U.S. state, and returning home in 1836. The Pilgrim was 'a swearing ship', in which the brutal and choleric Captain Thompson imposed his discipline by bad language, and the Sabbath, normally a kind of token rest day for the crew, was never observed, except by the black African cook reading his bible all day alone in his galley. Apparently Captain Thompson was from the same mold as Herman Wouk's Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. The everyday details of his journey are surprisingly vivid. On their first week at sea, they spot a pirate ship, and must outrun it on a moonless night. Dolphins follow the ship as it heads for Cape Horn. The Captain's patience is tried by a lazy first mate who refuses to watch for icebergs. And when a man falls overboard, the captain must assure the crew that a thorough search was conducted. The discipline was brutal and flogging was cruel. The author did not attempt to oppose the Captain, but he did devote much of his subsequent life towards improving the conditions of seamen's lives aboard ship. What made his story unique was that Dana chose to go "before the mast" and live the life of a real sailor unlike those narratives told by passengers on board ship. The edition I read included a glossary that was helpful since there were so many terms in the book unique to sailing. I found the book to be an exciting story made interesting by the well-educated young man who chose to go to sea as a shipmate 'before the mast' rather than a cabin passenger in the officers' quarters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    M.R. Dowsing

    Published in 1840, this is the well-educated Dana's account of his two year voyage as an ordinary seaman, sailing from Boston around Cape Horn to California and back. The purpose is mainly to collect hides, of which some 40, 000 are shipped back (yes, that's a lot of dead animals - and that's only one ship!). I had heard that this book was an exposé of the harsh conditions that sailors faced at the time, and that it was partly responsible for helping to improve those conditions. For this reason, Published in 1840, this is the well-educated Dana's account of his two year voyage as an ordinary seaman, sailing from Boston around Cape Horn to California and back. The purpose is mainly to collect hides, of which some 40, 000 are shipped back (yes, that's a lot of dead animals - and that's only one ship!). I had heard that this book was an exposé of the harsh conditions that sailors faced at the time, and that it was partly responsible for helping to improve those conditions. For this reason, I expected it to be quite an angry book which, for the most part, it isn't. However, what the book does do very effectively is to de-romanticize the sailor's life. Apart from one nasty flogging, there's little out-and-out abuse, but the sailors here are usually forced to work very long hours seven days a week, their tasks are exhausting and dangerous (they often have to man the rigging for hours in freezing temperatures and very strong winds with little protective clothing), they are poorly fed and have virtually no say in how things are done. I suspect that the condition of most slaves would have been more comfortable; the only advantage in being a sailor seems to be the prospect of freedom at the end of the voyage. This is an interesting and well-written book, although some may find it a bit slow and over-detailed (there's a lot of stuff about furling the try-sail, etc). Dana also manages to avoid any mention of sex throughout the entire book (apart from a couple of dark hints)and today it does seem like his subject has perhaps not been quite as fully dealt with as it may have been due to contemporary concerns about delicacy. A great maritime classic nonetheless, and one that surely influenced Melville and all that cam after it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    3.5* As one who enjoys sea-stories, especially those of the tall ships - this book gave me a more realistic account of a sailor's life. Pretty much the next best thing to being in jail. I mean that in the sense that the routines were so strictly regimented and the work unending and restrictive (they weren't even allowed to talk to each other on deck). Everything depended on the kind of captain you had. Everything! And to think that 12 year old boys were sent off to sea! (Must have been a differe 3.5* As one who enjoys sea-stories, especially those of the tall ships - this book gave me a more realistic account of a sailor's life. Pretty much the next best thing to being in jail. I mean that in the sense that the routines were so strictly regimented and the work unending and restrictive (they weren't even allowed to talk to each other on deck). Everything depended on the kind of captain you had. Everything! And to think that 12 year old boys were sent off to sea! (Must have been a different species of 12 yr. olds back then.) A very, very interesting book on many levels. Because he was educated, Dana was able to express what the other sailors had merely to accept. The fact that one might sign up for a year's voyage, and end up out there for 3 or 4 years appalled me. Dana had to do some serious scrambling to get home within 2 years. This is one of those books that takes you all over the place and makes writing a review almost impossible. Yes, there was a lot of ship-talk that went way over my head, but it managed to give me a sense of the skill and cooperation that had to be employed to run a vessel, especially in rough weather. Character and the relationships between people are of vital importance on board ship, this was the clearest point for me. Dana met several people who impressed him greatly - one was Harris, a fellow ship-mate and uneducated man who must have been something close to a genius, to whom the whole ship looked to when anything was in question. The Kanaka sailors also earned Dana's respect - to the degree that he claimed he would trust his life to them over anyone else. Life on a tall ship = hard hard work. Period. Book trail: 1. Two Years Before the Mast, R.H. Dana Jr. 2. A Ride To Khiva, F. Burnaby

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    California before the Gold Rush. Life at sea during the great age of sail. An autobiographical coming of age story for the son of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, aristocracy. (His grandfather Francis Dana was a secretary to John Adams, signer of the Articles of the Confederation, third chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, etc. A few streets in Cambridge are named for family members.) Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s intent was to bring some dignity to the person of the sailorman in his contemp California before the Gold Rush. Life at sea during the great age of sail. An autobiographical coming of age story for the son of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, aristocracy. (His grandfather Francis Dana was a secretary to John Adams, signer of the Articles of the Confederation, third chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, etc. A few streets in Cambridge are named for family members.) Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s intent was to bring some dignity to the person of the sailorman in his contemporary society. He may not have succeeded in that regard, but we are left instead with a remarkable view into a vanished way of life, the merchant sailor's life. Oh yes. Dana Point in Southern California, between Orange and San Diego counties, is named for the author, and a local tourist site has built a full scale replica of the ship Pilgrim he describes in this good book. Highly recommended for the reader interested in biographical historical nonfiction, the life of the sailor, and/or early California. Probably a little too specialized for the general reader.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma

    Very interesting! The book details the adventures of Richard Henry Dana's as a seaman. Before his brief career in tbe sea, Mr. Dana was a student of law at havard university, a trait which earned him respect from his colleagues at sea. He was forced into this job after having problems with his eyesight. Here, he narrates to us the stories of tyranny and hardships he and his fellow seafaring men went through during their voyages. At times the work was disagreeable and fatiguing. Very rarely were Very interesting! The book details the adventures of Richard Henry Dana's as a seaman. Before his brief career in tbe sea, Mr. Dana was a student of law at havard university, a trait which earned him respect from his colleagues at sea. He was forced into this job after having problems with his eyesight. Here, he narrates to us the stories of tyranny and hardships he and his fellow seafaring men went through during their voyages. At times the work was disagreeable and fatiguing. Very rarely were they given breaks even on Sunday. It was all disgraceful and repugnant. On the positive side, we get to learn about the habits of different people from different parts of America and the world. In other parts, their were no laws or judiciary. However, amidst some of these interesting historical facts came the cruelty of some of their captains. It was disheartening to read about how the captains punished men who do mistakes. At times they were flogged like beasts. Their cries during the ordeal was unbearable. In all these, an overstrained sense of manliness was what was needed of seafaring men. In the rough and tumble of life, they were not expected to show of pity or attention. It is these and many more other forms of injustice that Mr. Dana embarked on reforming in his career as a lawyer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hank

    I'm pretty sure the only way to describe this is "a cracking yarn."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Dana could really write.... One night, while we were in these tropics, I went out to the end of the flying-jib-boom, upon some duty, and, having finished it, turned round, and lay over the boom for a long time, admiring the beauty of the sight before me. Being so far out from the deck, I could look at the ship, as at a separate vessel;-and there rose up from the water, supported only by the small black hull, a pyramid of canvas, spreading out far beyond the hull, and towering up almost, as it see Dana could really write.... One night, while we were in these tropics, I went out to the end of the flying-jib-boom, upon some duty, and, having finished it, turned round, and lay over the boom for a long time, admiring the beauty of the sight before me. Being so far out from the deck, I could look at the ship, as at a separate vessel;-and there rose up from the water, supported only by the small black hull, a pyramid of canvas, spreading out far beyond the hull, and towering up almost, as it seemed in the indistinct night air, to the clouds. The sea was as still as an inland lake; the light trade-wind was gently and steadily breathing from astern; the dark blue sky was studded with the tropical stars; there was no sound but the rippling of the water under the stem; and the sails were spread out, wide and high;-the two lower studding-sails stretching, on each side, far beyond the deck; the topmast studding-sails, like wings to the topsails; the top-gallant studding-sails spreading fearlessly out above them; still higher, the two royal studding-sails, looking like two kites flying from the same string; and, highest of all, the little skysail, the apex of the pyramid, seeming actually to touch the stars, and to be out of reach of human hand. So quiet, too, was the sea, and so steady the breeze, that if these sails had been sculptured marble, they could not have been more motionless. Not a ripple upon the surface of the canvas; not even a quivering of the extreme edges of the sail----so perfectly were they distended by the breeze. His observations about California, prior to the Gold Rush and after his return 24 years later, are fascinating, as well. ------ Dana's first sighting of an iceberg off Cape Horn (his writing is believed to have influenced Melville)... And there lay, floating in the ocean, several miles off, an immense, irregular mass, its top and points covered with snow, and its centre of a deep indigo color…. As far as the eye could reach, the sea in every direction was of a deep blue color, the waves running high and fresh, and sparkling in the light, and in the midst lay this immense mountain-island, its cavities and valleys thrown into deep shade, and its points and pinnacles glittering in the sun….But no description can give any idea of the strangeness, splendor, and, really, the sublimity, of the sight. Its great size… its slow motion, as its base rose and sank in the water, and its high points nodded against the clouds; the dashing of the waves upon it, which, breaking high with foam, lined its base with a white crust; and the thundering sound of the cracking of the mass, and the breaking and tumbling down of huge pieces; together with its nearness and approach, which added a slight element of fear,—all combined to give to it the character of true sublimity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Karraker

    This was a very interesting book about life aboard the old sailing ships of the 1800's. Reading it reminded me of movie scenes from the Horatio Hornblower series as well as Master and Commander. Being written so long ago, it was interesting to hear him describe things without trying to be politically correct. He definitely didn't like the dirtiness of the whaler ships or the Russian ones. California was not a part of the United States during his travels, so it was a little weird to hear him desc This was a very interesting book about life aboard the old sailing ships of the 1800's. Reading it reminded me of movie scenes from the Horatio Hornblower series as well as Master and Commander. Being written so long ago, it was interesting to hear him describe things without trying to be politically correct. He definitely didn't like the dirtiness of the whaler ships or the Russian ones. California was not a part of the United States during his travels, so it was a little weird to hear him describe it as a foreign country. His description of San Francisco certainly had foresight--"If California ever becomes a prosperous country this bay will be the center of its prosperity. The abundance of wood and water, the extreme fertility of its shores, the excellence of its climate, which is as near to being perfect as any in the world, and its facilities for navigation, affording the best anchoring-grounds in the whole western coast of America, all fit it for a place of great importance." My daughter who lives in the area would certainly agree. In helping a younger daughter with a project about the state of California, we read about one of the products being cattle hides, which I didn't think much of at the time. However, reading about how he was dropped off and left to work for months at getting these hides ready for shipment was enlightening. The fact that they stored 40,000 such hides on just one voyage, many bound together like books, so many that the ship sat very low in the water was amazing. There must have been a tremendous amount of cattle to sustain such tanning and shipping over the years. They were constantly cutting great amounts of wood, and I wonder at the environmental effects of so much timber being cut. The descriptions of rounding the Horn were like many others that I've read--ice coating the sails, winds screaming across the oceans and churning up the waters in that area, the incredible cold. It's amazing that any of these ships made it and attests to the great skills and perseverance of the sailors. Definitely an adventure! There were many descriptions of the sailing vessels, and an illustration pointing out the various sails, yards, etc. would have been helpful. Also, I would have appreciated a map, for my geography isn't as good as it used to be!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This in one greatest books to come out of the Transcendalist movement. After attending a private prep school run by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dana enrolled at Harvard in 1831 where he contracted measles from which Opthamalia developed. In order to do the most to restore his eyes to good health, Dana signed on for a two-year term on a Boston merchant ship bound for the Pacific. The book which follows is a delightful adventure tale for youth which describes the harrowing dangers and incredible hardship This in one greatest books to come out of the Transcendalist movement. After attending a private prep school run by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dana enrolled at Harvard in 1831 where he contracted measles from which Opthamalia developed. In order to do the most to restore his eyes to good health, Dana signed on for a two-year term on a Boston merchant ship bound for the Pacific. The book which follows is a delightful adventure tale for youth which describes the harrowing dangers and incredible hardships of the common sailors who made the long voyage around Capehorn to trade in the remote pacific outposts of the U.S. They livee in cramped quarters, worke long hours, suffered from malnutrition, contracted scurvy and died with distressing regularity. The voyage had a transformative impact on Dana. He returned to Harvard, completed his degree specializing in Maritime law, and campaigned the rest of his life for the improvement of the working conditions of merchant sailors. The idealist Dana would later found the Free Soil Party in 1848 which ran on the platform of not admitting Slave states to the Union. Two years before the Mast is one of the greatest works of youth literature ever written in America. I urge new generations of American parents to continue encouraging their children to read this book which as great tale of the formation of a social activist as well as being a better tale of adventure on the High Seas than any of the Captain Blood novels.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    One of the earliest travel diaries, this was a huge hit back in the 1830s. Melville stole liberally from Dana in his creation of Moby Dick. Dana, sick from life at law school at Harvard, takes to the seas on a boat sailing from Boston. They head around the Cape and spend a few years trading along the California coast. Probably the best written account of Pre-Gold rush California, it's fascinating to read his descriptions of singing whales along side their boats, old Monterrey, San Fransisco, his One of the earliest travel diaries, this was a huge hit back in the 1830s. Melville stole liberally from Dana in his creation of Moby Dick. Dana, sick from life at law school at Harvard, takes to the seas on a boat sailing from Boston. They head around the Cape and spend a few years trading along the California coast. Probably the best written account of Pre-Gold rush California, it's fascinating to read his descriptions of singing whales along side their boats, old Monterrey, San Fransisco, his time tanning hides outside of Los Angeles, and his incredible adventure at sea when they attempted to come back around the Cape. Dana also describes the harsh beatings and the illegal practices of ship captains the kept many sailor at near slavery levels of employment; descriptions used by some to try and bring more equitable practices to our seas. He sails, and has great admiration for, a variety of "Sandwhich Islanders" (Hawaiians) and his close friend became the basis for Queequeg (sp?) in Moby Dick. Dana writes with style and talent. His descriptive abilities are particularly strong. A fun read, especially if you know the coast of California.

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