Posted on March 18, 2012 by Jack Kelly
Tags: readings

I didn’t get through as much reading as usual on my most recent voyage. There were too many opportunities for useful study that reading came a distant second. That said, I did finish a few books, and John Toohey’s Quiros is the first of them.

The story centres on the voyage of Pedro Fernandes de Queiros, that set out from Peru to find a “Great South Land” and found a New Jerusalem as Knights of the Holy Ghost. Naturally, things go wrong, but the real problems are conflicts within the crew, morale and mutiny instead of towering seas and fierce storms. The story itself is pretty unremarkable: the crew eventually reach a south land, attempt to establish a colony, get driven back by the natives, mutiny and go home. Despite this, the book presents several interesting ideas, but doesn’t explore any of them in detail.

Quiros, the captain, necessarily has a different perspective to his crew. As a result, he is physically and mentally isolated from his men, and his decisions often seem unfathomable to the deckhands. Even today this doesn’t seem to have changed: a ship cannot run with two heads. Conversely, if the person calling the shots is trying to work the deck at the same time, the will almost certainly have an inferior grasp of the situation as it develops. Faith plays a big role in the narrative: the captian needs faith in his crew, the crew have to have faith in the captain and the crew’s faith in god is challenged by Quiros’ differing theological ideas. Toohey also briefly looks at the lines between discipline and brutality, kindness and weakness, and respect and fear.

The book is shorter than it looks (it’s not a tiny volume but there’s a fair amount of space between printed lines) and moves fairly quickly. It was a decent read between heavier works, but I feel like it could’ve been a lot more.

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