Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his novels about a certain Mr. Holmes, who keeps popping up in movies and TV shows. Conan Doyle’s most famous character may have inspired period-themed pilgrimages to Switzerland, but his author enjoyed a rather different kind of travel. When he was a 20-year-old medical student, Conan Doyle became the ship’s surgeon on board a whaling ship, the Hope.
Like any good writer, Conan Doyle kept notes while on board, and this week, the British Library published his journals from his voyage to the Arctic. The book contains full color images of the diary, as well as photographs from the expedition, and a few of the fiction stories that were inspired by the trip.
The diary isn’t for the faint of heart. Conan Doyle described the hunting of seals and whales in gruesome detail. From a Daily Mail review of the book:
Conan Doyle reported seeing millions of seals, and it was no exaggeration. ‘They look a sort of cross between a lamb and a gigantic slug,’ he wrote. ‘On the 3rd, the bloody work began and has gone on ever since. The mothers are shot and the little ones have their brains knocked out with spiked clubs.’
Depressing stuff. But it’s not all blood and gore: the sketches are really lovely.
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