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North-West by North
Author: Birtles D.
Publisher: Virago Press
Quality: Scanned pages
Pages count: 440
Description: Dora Birtles was born in Wickham, New South Wales, in 1903, and educated at The Women's College, Sydney, and Sydney University. Fascinated by the sea and a keen sailor from an early age, in 1932 she joined the crew of the cutter Skaga on an eight-month voyage from Newcastle to Singapore — the first such journey to include women from Australia, and one keenly followed by the press at the time. She and the other women on board wrote regularly for various newspapers throughout the voyage as a means of financing the venture; North- West by North, a much more1 complete account of shipboard life, was not published until 1935. In it she describes not only the sailor's day-to-day experiences of exhilaration and danger, discomfort and tedium, but also the extraordinary psychological pressures of physical confinement: along with the thrill of adventures shared come personal rivalries and misunderstandings; close friends on shore do not necessarily live together happily within the space of a thirty-four-foot yacht.
When Skaga's journey ended in Singapore, Dora Birtles spent several years abroad with her journalist husband, and was active on the Women's Committee Against War and Fascism in London before the Second World War. She also continued to write, and has published two books of children's fiction as well as works of adult fiction and non-fiction, among them The Overlanders, also a successful film. She still lives in Sydney and, with her husband and two sons, remains active in the yachting world.
The voyage from Sydney to Singapore described in this book was made in 1932. The account is a personal one based on diaries written at the time. The journey of five thousand miles took almost eight months and it was accomplished in a cutter thirty-four feet long. No engine was used. The book is a record of feelings as well as of adventures and impressions, and the object in writing it was to set everything down as truly as possible.