Off the Deep End: A History of Madness at Sea
In the 18th century, the Royal Navy's own physician found that sailors were seven times more likely to suffer from severe mental illness than members of the general population. On the no man's land of the high seas, beyond the rule of law, and away from any sight of land for weeks at a time, often living in overcrowded and confined spaces, where anything that goes wrong could likely be fatal, the incredible pressures on sailors were immense. The ever-present fear drove some men to faith in God and superstition, and drove others mad. But that didn't stop as boat technology improved and seamanship evolved in the modern era. Off the Deep End is the first detailed study of the effect on sanity that the vastness, loneliness and inestimable power of the sea has always had on sailors' sanity, confusing the senses and making rational thought difficult. Eminently readable, it explores accounts that span the centuries, from desperate stories of shipwreck and cannibalism in the Age of Sail, to inexplicable multiple murders, to Donald Crowhurst's suicide in the middle of the 1968 solo Golden Globe Race, leaving behind two rambling notebooks of mounting neurosis and paranoia. Of interest to readers of maritime history, psychology, sociology and behavioural science, as well, of course, as to sailors of all types and experience, this unique and fascinating book offers insight and analysis - a thoroughly absorbing read about the effects of the cruel sea on the human mind.
A unique and fascinating study into why, historically, sailors have been seven times more likely to suffer from severe mental illness and how the sea continues to have the power to drive people mad.
Nic Compton is a widely published author, journalist and photographer. Formerly the Editor of Classic Boat magazine for 5 years, he then branched out into a freelance writing career and has written 5 books for Adlard Coles Nautical: Ultimate Classic Yachts (published to great acclaim),The Anatomy of Sail, Why Sailors Can't Swim, Iain Oughtred, and Titanic on Trial.