Den Tod vor Augen

Die unglückliche Reise der Bremer Bark LIBELLE

Bernd Drechsler, Thomas Begerow, Peter-Michael Pawlik
Hauschild Verlag, Bremen
2007, 264 p., 127 ill., mainly in colour, hardcover
ISBN 978-3-89757-333-8

Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum. Bremerhaven

On the evening of March 5, 1866 the Bremen barque LIBELLE, under the command of captain Anton Tobias, stranded on Wake Island, one of the remotest and ininhabited atolls in the central Pacific. The vessel was en-route from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Aboard were sixteen passengers, men, women, and children, among them illustrious characters: Anna Bishop, a world famous opera singer of the time; Eugene Miller Van Reed, an American diplomat and a pioneer in developing the Asiatic market; Yabe Kisaboro, a Japanese military officer.

Passengers and crew recovered themselves to the desolate shore of the atoll. They were able to salvage part of the cargo consisting of gold, silver, and mercury which they buried in the sand. The water supplies retrieved from the wreck were very limited. When having searched the island for water in vain, the fear of the imminent death is growing: Is it advisable to consign their lives to a tiny boat and try to reach the Mariana Islands, in a distance of about 1300 nautical miles?

Almost 150 years after these events, written accounts of the first mates of LIBELLE, Rudolf Kausch, were found by his great-grandson, one of the authors. These documents and world-wide enquiries answer many quesions: What had really happened? Who were the shipwrecked passengers and crew who had almost no chance to survive, and what happened to them in later years?

"... a fascinating coverage of the events between catastrophy and fortunate rescue", comments the director of the German National Maritime Museum, Professor Dr. Lars U. Scholl, on this book.