Life And Adventures Of John Nicol, Mariner

ISBN: 0862419921
ISBN 13: 9780862419929
By: John Nicol

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Reader's Thoughts


This wonderful book is up there with Joshua Slocum's great saga "Sailing Alone Around the World". The two men lived during the same period of history and it's tantalising to think that their paths may well have crossed. When he was a very old man, John Nicol was discovered picking up lumps of coal to keep from freezing, by a publisher who encouraged him to write his memoirs. He writes in his own voice about his many voyages and events that we're more familiar reading about in history books. Recommended for anyone who is interested in history and the people who lived it.


I cannot decide how many stars to give this book! Yes, it is amazing that there even exists a book about an ordinary person's life back in the latter half of the 1700s. It's amazing how much he travelled (twice around the globe). Here is an unpretentious, nice guy who simply adores travelling, seeing new places, learning about his world. And he did no much - took part in the naval battles fought by Britain when America sought independence and also the naval battles following the French Revolution. He fought against the Spanish, he fought off of Egypt, was stationed in Malta and more. He was on the ship Juliana that took women conscripts to Australia and fell head over heels in love with one of theses women. He visited China, Canton, so many times that he could say that he went and visited his Chinese friends again! He saves a Chinese boy from drowning and subsequently gets invited into Chinese homes. He was in Hawai immediately after Captain Cooks visit there. He danced and ate and drank with Hawaian women. He is stuck in Artic ice, and although I have read whole books about how terrible this is - he sums it up in one beautiful paragraph. The book doesn't need editing. It is short and quick and to the point. It is really quite amazing. The maps in the paperback version totally suck, so get out your atlas. Nevertheless 5 stars feels wrong, and even 4 stars too. So it gets 3 - but you SHOULD read the book. This book fills me with surprise, rather than engagement, and I like to be engaged. I have a hunch that it is because the book is of "another era" that it doesn't get more stars, and honestly that isn't fair. No, it gets 4 stars.


If you like narratives of early maritime voyages, you will enjoy this work. John Nicol (1755-1825) sailed on a number of British ships between 1776 and 1801. His writings were recently rediscovered and edited by Tim Flannery, Director of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. Especially enjoyable is a chapter on transporting women prisoners from London to Botany Bay, Australia; any one of the women's stories could be the basis of a fascinating book or motion picture.

Sharon Robards

This book is a gem and the only known account of the Lady Juliana, which brought 200 plus convict women to Australia after the first fleet. John Nicols fell in love on board with Sarah Whitlam, a convict who had his son before the ship arrived in Australia. Separated at gun point shortly after arrival in Australia, John Nicols would spend the next decade trying to be reunited with Sarah and their son.For anyone who finishes this and wonders what Sarah’s side of the story is, a great follow up to read is The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts


Found this little biography in London in a museum gift shop, and couldn't put it down--a real-life adventure at sea, complete with romance, Napoleonic-era battles, and all the ingredients of a great movie. Loved the epilogue about how the author was 'discovered' by the biographer, as a poor & destitute old man gathering coals in Edinburgh, and then sales of the book made him rich!


A history of a comman man that just "happened" to sail around the world 6 times and live to tell about favorite part is where he tells the story of the sailor who took a wife so fat they had to hoist her on board the ship with the cargo pulleys.

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