Sailing to California from Boston around Cape Horn, Two Years Before the Mast is both an adventure and an eloquent account of life at sea in the early nineteenth century. Richard Henry Dana is only nineteen when he escapes the patrician world of Boston and Harvard for the arduous voyage. The result is an astonishing book, filled with vivid descriptions of storms, whales, and the ship's mad captain, terrible hardship and magical beauty, and fascinating historical detail.
he detailed one slight case where he thought my father was at fault,---a detail so slight that I now forget what it is. In reading the Log kept by the discharged mate, Amerzeen, on the return trip in the Alert, I find that every incident there recorded, from running aground at the start at San Diego Harbor, through the perilous icebergs round the Horn, the St. Elmo's fire, the scurvy of the crew and the small matters like the painting of the vessel, to the final sail up Boston Harbor, confirms my father's record. His former shipmate, the late B. G. Stimson, a distinguished citizen of Detroit, said the account of the flogging was far from an exaggeration, and Captain Faucon of the Alert also during his lifetime frequently confirmed all that came under his observation. Such truth in the author demands truth in illustration, and I have cooperated with the publishers in securing a painting of the Alert under full sail and other illustrations, both colored and in pen and ink, faithful to the text in every detail.