IT WAS a matter of hell or Melbourne ... and as the fare-paying passengers aboard the ground-breaking clipper ship Marco Polo found out, they were dealt both.
The year was 1852 and the 952 fare-paying passengers aboard the huge 184-foot vessel were made to cower in the normally claustrophobic 'tween deck made hellish as they tossed about like rag dolls when the battle with the ocean raged.
They were crossing the northern latitude of the Roaring Forties when a fierce Southern Ocean locked horns with master James Nicol Forbes, fuelling his determination to drive the vessel - known affectionately as the ocean greyhound - to Melbourne in world record time come hell or high water. And that he did as he overcame the might of this angry ocean to deliver his human cargo in record time.
His achievement, and those of clippers that followed has been described as a revolution of travel that encouraged the clipper ships to become the jet airliners of their day.
Author Rob Mundle, whose family heritage is with the sea dating back to his great-great-grandfather, the master of a clipper ship, delivers a detailed reflection of demon sailors and brave and desperate passengers leaving the gold fields of California determined to win their fortunes and make a better life in Australia.
They collectively re-wrote maritime history and in his latest book, Under Full Sail, Mundle chronicles this in an exciting, thorough and engaging manner.
Mundle shares his detailed research findings into the characters and circumstance of this new Australia as it opens its arms to embrace people of all kind and colour hell-bent on finding a new world, a new life.
The colony of Australia initially feared the prospect of gold discovery as it felt this would bring chaos to an established system that already struggled to maintain order and discipline in containing 450,000 convicts. It came to embrace the discovery that followed and the riches and growth it brought.
Tens of thousands of migrants were brought to Australia during the latter half of the 19th century aboard the clipper ships and an estimated one million descendants exist today as a result of the mass relocation. Mundle's book not only does these early pioneers proud but stands sure-footed as the ripping yarn it is.
Under Full Sail, published by ABC Books, RRP $45, is out now.
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