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New Book Tells Stormy True Tales Of Terror At Sea

The maritime history of Queensland and the South Pacific really comes alive in a new book by Australian author Tony Matthews. In his book, Shipwrecks and Seafarers' Scandals - True Tales from Colonial Queensland and the South Pacific, the heroes and scoundrels, the brave and the bumbling seafarers ride the crest of the roaring days in the late 19th century.

Mysteries, long-forgotten treasures, shipwrecks, murder, torture, madness and brutality all combine to provide the reader with an extraordinary collection of true tales.

Tony Matthews' dramatic stories show just how dangerous it was to be sailing off the coast of Queensland or between Queensland, New Zealand and the South Pacific in the 19th century. If a cyclone or a coral reef and a shipwreck didn't get you, then disease, starvation, a mutiny or a massacre might.

As we board our P and O cruises now in the 21st century, we should spare a thought for the murderous blackbirding traffic from the South Seas in the 19th century; or the exotic interaction of headhunters, missionaries and island traders that inspired the conflicting myths of the 'noble savage' and the depraved cannibal, 'the South Pacific Isles of Eden' and the sweltering jungles of tropical hell.

Tony Matthews makes the shipping of 19th century Queensland and the South Pacific come alive in a way you never experienced in your school history lessons! These true stories of courage and cowardice will have you gripping the side of your bed in terror and amazement at human greed and cruelty!

The book includes some startling stories including the hitherto obscure tale of the Bosun Bird treasure. The vessel Bosun Bird left Peru sometime in 1881 loaded with Spanish treasure which was guarded by armed monks. The monks were all murdered by several crew members and the treasure was, reportedly, buried on a remote desert island in the Tuamotu Group, near Tahiti. The ship was then sailed to the coast of Queensland. The Bosun Bird was then either wrecked or abandoned, the remaining crew murdered, and the mutineers reportedly staggered ashore near Cooktown. Many treasure hunters have since sought the treasure, but today its precise location remains a mystery.

One of the more powerful stories is that of the immigrant vessel, 'Fiery Star' which left Brisbane in 1865 bound for London with more than ninety passengers and crew on board. The ship was also loaded with bales of wool which had been loaded in a wet condition. The damp wool later spontaneously combusted and set fire to the ship. What followed was one of the most terrifying ordeals of survival in maritime history. The captain and almost all the passengers abandoned the ship, leaving almost all the crew to live or die on the slowly burning vessel, there being not enough lifeboats to carry all the survivors to safety. However, fate reversed the situation, all the lifeboats were sunk in a storm and there were no survivors. Meanwhile, those still on board the burning ship managed to survive for the following three weeks as they fought the flames, finally being rescued by a New Zealand bound vessel, the 'Dauntless'. The survivors were taken to Auckland but once there many of them complained bitterly about their harsh treatment and the inhumane neglect they had been subjected to while on board the rescue vessel.

Just the titles of some of the book's chapters are sufficient to encourage further investigation: Torture Aboard the Barque, Eaglet; Voyage of Blood; The Gold Ship Pirates; The Ship that was Destined to Die; The Incredible Journey of Bernard Gilfoy; That Bloody Middleton Reef; The Natal Mutiny and many more.

Nothing you have ever read could possibly prepare you for the stories in this spectacular book.

'I've attempted to bring together a rich collection of unusual stories that are bizarre and almost unbelievable,' Dr Matthews says. 'But while they may sound incredible, they are true in every detail. People like to know about unusual events, murders and lost treasures, so I think that this book will find a wide audience.'

'Shipwrecks and Seafarers' Scandals' - True Tales from Colonial Queensland and the South Pacific' can be ordered direct from the publisher: CQU Press, PO Box 1615 Rockhampton, Queensland, 4700, Australia, or by visiting the publisher's webpage at or e-mail the publisher at

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