A hunt for treasure that ends in nautical disaster? Scurvy and mutiny on the high seas? I’m all in. At The New Yorker, read an excerpt of the prologue and the first chapter of David Grann’s forthcoming book, “The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder.”
For days, it watched as the strange object heaved up and down in the ocean, tossed mercilessly by the wind and the waves. Once or twice, the vessel nearly smashed into a reef, which might have ended our story. Yet somehow—whether through destiny, as some would later proclaim, or dumb luck—it drifted into an inlet, off the southeastern coast of Brazil, where several inhabitants laid eyes upon it.
More than fifty feet long and ten feet wide, it was a boat of some sort—though it looked as if it had been patched together from scraps of wood and cloth and then battered into oblivion. Its sails were shredded, its boom shattered. Seawater seeped through the hull, and a stench emanated from within. The bystanders, edging closer, heard unnerving sounds: thirty men were crammed on board, their bodies wasted almost to the bone. Their clothes had largely disintegrated.