Sunday 23 August 2020

Cape York Castaway

The astonishing and little known story of Narcisse Pelletier, a French cabin boy cast away in 1858 on the Daintree coast of North Queensland has in recent years come to the notice of historians and history buffs. Now ten years after historian Stephanie Anderson published her amazing book on Pelletier, a new book by journalist Robert Macklin has recently been published on the story of this castaway. The new book tells the story of the 14-year-old Narcisse Pelletier who sailed from Marseilles in the French trader ‘Saint-Paul’. With a cargo of Bordeaux wine, they stopped in Bombay, then to Hong Kong from there they sailed with more than three hundred Chinese prospectors bound for the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo. However, around the eastern tip of New Guinea, the ship became engulfed in fog, struck reefs and ran aground. After a perilous voyage in a longboat, crossing almost an thousand kilometres of the Coral Sea, young Narcisse was abandoned on the north Queensland coast by his shipmates and left for dead. He was rescued by the local Aboriginal people and for seventeen years he lived with them and learnt much of their culture until in 1875 he was discovered by the crew of a pearling lugger and wrenched from his Aboriginal family and taken back to his 'real' life in France. An amazing story from a time before the north was changed forever by the coming of the white man in search for gold.

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