The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm


- 2 -

The Venturesome Viking

         It was during the Spring of 1901, in Victoria,
         B.C., that Mr. Luxton, a Canadian journalist,
         asked me if I thought I could accomplish a
         voyage around the world in a smaller vessel
         than the American yawl Spray, in which Cap-
         tain Slocum, an American citizen, had success-
         fuily circumnavigated the globe.(1)

mild, and except for a low bank of haze over the Strait of Juan de
Fuca, above which the snowy Olympic Mountains to the south
seemed to float, it looked like the beginning of a fine spring day in
Victoria. Just pulling away from the rickety dock at Oak Bay was
one of the oddest vessels ever to set out on a circumnavigation before
or since. It looked like a Haida war canoe, carved from the trunk of
a giant cedar, which in fact it was, although now it had a cabin
amidships and three small masts of a miniature schooner.

  On board this bizarre vessel was perhaps the most unlikely pair
ever to embark on such an adventure: Norman Kenny Luxton, in his
twenties, but already with a colorful career behind him, a sometime
newspaperman and promoter, slight of build, with brown hair and
pale blue eyes; and Captain John (Jack) Claus Voss, a short chesty
German in his middle forties, with handlebar moustache and sharp
gray eyes, thin brown hair, and imperious manner, a Victoria, British
Columbia, hotel keeper, sea captain, soldier of fortune, smuggler,
treasure hunter, and family man.

   ~ 15 ~

  On the wharf, waving to them as they drifted slowly away with the
tide and morning offshore breeze, were friends and family members
of both men no doubt wondering if they would ever see either of
them again.
 The name on the bow of this new-painted vessel was Tilikum,      
which was an Indian word for "friend." The name was appropriate to
the tenor of the times, with the world beginning a new century
bright with optimism, hope, peace, prosperity, and universal friend-
ship. It was a time of great and lively interest in adventuring and
exploration. The Klondike and Alaskan gold rush had reached a peak
of public interest. Great fortunes were being made everywhere, it
seemed, in lumbering, mining, shipping, fish packing, railroad and
townsite speculation, oil, and mercantilism. The panic and depression
of the late 1890s had finally been broken. It was time for daring and
gambling for big stakes. Great economical and social changes were
afoot. It was great to be alive and a participant and challenger in
 The Tilikum was only one of numerous vessels in various countries
of the world that was launched, proposed, or already afloat for the
purpose of imitating or outdoing Captain Joshua Slocum and his
Spray, the fame of which had by now become worldwide, to say
nothing of profitable. Tilikum was 38 feet overall including the

native figurehead, 30 feet on the waterline, with a maximum beam of
5 feet 6 inches at the rail, 4 feet 6 inches at the chine and only 3 feet 
6 inches wide on the bottom. She had been purchased for $80 from 
an old Indian who had been softened up, Voss claimed, with a "drap
of ol' Rye." The original red cedar dugout was rebuilt with a stout
keelson, oak frames, and a keel of 300 pounds of lead. The sides were
built up 7 inches, and a 5 foot by 8 foot cabin was erected with a
cockpit for steering. Three masts were stepped to handle four small
fore and aft sails, totalling 230 square feet of canvas. Inside went a half
ton of ballast, between the floor timbers, and 400 pounds of sand in 4
bags to be used for trimming ballast. About a hundred gallons of
fresh water were carried in two galvanized iron tanks under the
cockpit. Provisions included three months' supply of tinned goods
and other staples; equipment included a camera, two rifles, a double-
barrel shotgun, chronometer, water, barometer, and sextant. Loaded
and with crew aboard, the Tilikum drew 24 inches aft and 22 inches
 Despite outward indications, Tilikum was surprisingly seaworthy
and handy, although her windward ability left room for doubt. The

  ~ 16 ~

modifications and outfitting had been the work of Voss himself, and
were the result of years of experience. Born probably in Germany in
the 1850s,(2) he went to sea when he was nineteen, sailing the oceans
on the tough square-riggers, did some sealing in the Bering, pros-
pected for gold in Nicaragua, did a little smuggling of Chinamen into
the United States, showed up at the gold-rush centers of Colorado
and British Columbia, was master of several vessels, and mate of tall
lumber clippers out of Puget Sound ports. He had more recently
engaged in a fascinating and adventuresome expedition on the Xora,
a pretty little 10-ton sloop, to the Cocos Islands and South America
in search of buried treasure. From about 1895 until meeting up with
Luxton in a bar, he had been a hotel owner and operator.(3)
  Co-owner and mate Norman Luxton had been born on November
2, 1876, at Upper Fort Garry, now Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,
son of the founder of the Winnipeg Free Press, and at age sixteen
became a clerk at the Rat Portage Indian Agency. Later he went to
the Cariboo gold fields, worked on the Calgary Herald as reporter
and typesetter, and migrated to Vancouver where he founded, with
Frank Burd, who later owned the Province, a weekly gossip sheet.
When this folded, Luxton went to work for the Vancouver Sun, and
it was probably during this period when he met Jack Voss in a bar
and they began to talk of ships and sea adventures and Captain
Slocum's feat.

  Voss was a man who thoroughly enjoyed his schnapps, and brag-
ging of his past exploits and personal prowess was a favorite indoor
pastime. His talkateveness when in his cups seems to have been a
Voss characteristic. When sober, he was virtually inarticulate, and so
unconvincing that he had a reputation for being a monumental liar.(4)
  Voss was described by young Norman Luxton as a hardened
seaman, egotistical, subject to black and violent moods when drink-
ing, full of braggadocio, aggressive, and provocative. In a posthu-
mously published biography edited by his daughter, Luxton actually
accused Voss of murder and of accepting Luxton's financing on
condition that all rights to subsequent literary endeavors would be
given in return, then double-crossing him.(5)
  An analysis of Voss's book, The Venturesome Voyages of Captain
Voss, Luxton's posthumous journal, and independent research, how-
ever, indicates that the only difference in the degree of prevarication
and personal egotism between the two was their ages. Of the two,
Voss's written account is by far the most lucid, informative, and

   ~ 17 ~ 

genuinely interesting, in spite of the fact that Luxton was supposed
to be the professional writer, and Voss the inarticulate sea captain.
 In any case, meet they did in a bar, and they became attracted to
each other for different reasons, no doubt (Luxton, with an eye on a
spectacular story, and Voss with a sense of adventure rekindled by
the enthusiasm of his new-found 25-year-old friend). The dugout
canoe was purchased, rebuilt, and then for several weeks sailed on
shakedown cruises among the beautiful wooded islands of the British
Columbia coastal waters. According to Luxton, who was interested in
artifacts and native customs stemming from his early years as an
agency clerk, the two of them raided sacred burial grounds for
souvenirs with bullets zinging around them, and on one beach dug up
an old brass cannon left by an early Spanish ship.(6)
 On the morning they left on their circumnavigation, Luxton wrote,
he learned that Voss had registered the Tilikum as the Pelican in
order to confuse the U.S. Coast Guard revenue cutter that was sup-
posed to be waiting to intercept Voss, who was wanted for alleged
smuggling of dope and illegal Chinese labor. Luxton related how
smugglers like Voss, when caught by the fuzz, would drop the
Chinamen over the side in gunny sacks.(7)
 Seeing them off were Captain Voss's family his wife, daughter,
and youngest son; Luxton's brother, George, and O. B. Ormond,
proprietor of Ormond's Biscuits in Victoria. After attending an all-
night dance at the Dallas Hotel, Luxton was in no shape to navigate,
and as soon as they were off, went below and hit the sack. He didn't
wake up until the Tilikum entered the violent rips at Race Rocks,
about ten miles from Victoria.
 From here on, they hit head winds and had difficulty making their
way out the strait, so they pulled in at Sooke Harbour and beached
the boat to check on several leaks which had developed through open
seams. Departing again, they attempted to double Cape Flattery but
the weather again forced them to run back to shelter on the west
coast of Vancouver Island. There they spent several weeks visiting
with white families and the Indian villagers. At one point, Luxton
related how he joined a native whaling foray offshore. At another
time, he told how a friend had tried to shanghai him aboard a sealing
schooner bound for the Bering. (Luxton claimed to have made
several such trips and to hold a mate's ticket, a claim that cannot be
substantiated by any records now extant.) In any case, they spent a
leisurely few weeks exploring the west coast of the island and getting
Tilikum ready again.(8)

    ~ 18 ~

  On July 6, they departed at last, bound for Pitcairn Island and the
Marquesas. They had not gone more than twenty-five miles when
they were surrounded by a large migration of gray whales, then
common on this coast, and were in danger of being struck and
crushed by the cavorting cetaceans.
  Down along the west coast of North America they sailed, experi-
erencing fine weather and frequent gales, learning to handle the
Tilikum and settling into a daily routine of sixty to seventy miles. On
this leg, Captain Voss gave Luxton some of the best on board train-
ing in small-boat handling under bluewater conditions ever related,
and the techniques Voss described were little-known then and dec-
ades ahead of the current crop of heavy weather sailing manuals.
Down through the northeast trades they went, then into the dol-
drums and across the equator into the South Pacific. Instead of
Pitcairn or the Marquesas, they made their first landfall at Penrhyn
Island on September 1. The two men had a violent argument here
about landing, Voss wanting to continue on to Samoa because he
feared the natives on Penrhyn would be hostile. But land here they
did and found anchored the two-masted schooner Tamari Tahiti Tahiti, the
French trading vessel, commanded by Captain George Dexter, a half-
caste Tahitian-American, and his partner, the legendary Captain Joe
Winchester, "an English gentleman and sailor," who was the father-
in-law of James Norman Hall of later Mutiny on the Bounty fame.
  Their stay on Penrhyn was apparently an eventful one, at least for
Luxton, who related that he was trapped into a marriage by the
mother of a local "princess," from which he escaped only by quick
thinking and a glib tongue; and on their final departure, they were
attended, Voss said, by two young "princesses," who came aboard to
wish them bon voyage. To nineteenth-century searovers, apparently
any dusky native belle was a "princess," a bit of harmless Anglo-
Saxon chauvinism which went over big with the folks back home, but
which any World War II G.I. in the South Pacific Theater forty
years later had another name for.
  The Tilikum stayed in the Cook Islands until September 25, when
Voss and Luxton departed for Samoa by way of Danger Island.(9)
  They paused briefly here, and on the passage to Samoa trouble
erupted between the two with Luxton claiming that Voss threatened
to "throw him overboard." The younger man then armed himself
with a .22 caliber Stevens target pistol and locked Voss in the cabin
until they reached Apia. There they appeared to have patched up
their differences and enjoyed a short stay and the hospitality of the

   ~ 19 ~

local white colony and natives alike. Luxton here became involved
with a Sadie Thompson with "legs like mutton and breasts like huge
cabbages," who wanted him to manage her store.(9)
  Luxton visited the sights, including Robert Louis Stevenson's
Vailima, and his tomb, wherein the famed author had inscribed his
own epitaph, quoted by every voyager to visit here, ". . . Home is
the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill."
  The first week in October, Luxton said he hunted up Voss, and
they got underway for Fiji. Before they left, however, Luxton took
Voss to Mr. Swan's store and read to him an account of their differ-
ences with a statement of Voss's threat. The paper also stated that, if
Luxton went missing between Samoa and Australia, Mr. Swan was to
take such action as necessary to make Voss prove he had not killed
Luxton. In his journal, Luxton claimed that Voss signed the state-
ment as correct, although Voss makes no mention of this, and the
paper which Luxton alleges Voss signed no longer exists.
  On the third day out of Samoa, they sighted Niuafoo, where they
were met by an island lass who swam out to beg for a plug of T and B
chewing tobacco. Two days later they came to one of the Fiji islands
where Luxton went ashore to explore with gun and camera while
Voss tended to the ship's needs. The next day they sailed for Suva.
Luxton related that while ashore he had been met by a white official
on horseback who told him a permit was needed from the Tonga
government to land on the island, and that the natives were inclined
to find "long pig" tempting as a dietary supplement. While in these
waters, the two men were threatened by natives sailing their fast
catamarans, who were dissuaded from attacking when Voss fired the
old Spanish cannon which they still had aboard along with the
Siwash skulls they had robbed from the British Columbia Indian
burial ground. Luxton had neglected to tell Voss, however, that the
cannon had been unshipped at Apia, and never made fast again. The 
black powder recoil tore it from its block and sent it over the side,
lost forever. The natives, meanwhile, had abandoned their canoes
and swam ashore. The two men collected the canoes, tied them
together, and sent them sailing off by themselves, an episode that
sounds like it came straight out of a Grade B western, with canoes
instead of Indian horses.                  
  Voss never mentioned anything about this, which Luxton explained
in his narrative by saying that "Jack was afraid he might go to jail for
shooting at them," and because they had also stolen some of the
native paddles and weapons from the canoes.(11)

   ~ 20 ~

  It was here that Luxton (without credit) used the old "tack" trick
to warn against hostile natives coming aboard at night. He claimed a
George Ellis had insisted on his taking a supply of carpet tacks along
to the Fijis to sprinkle on deck at night (just as Captain Slocum's
friend Samblich, in Punta Arenas, had cautioned him to do when he
set out to sail through Magellan Strait ) .
  Unlike Slocum, Luxton heard a noise in the night, rushed out on
deck, and stepped on the business ends of his burglar alarm.
  It was during the passage from here to Suva that Luxton claimed
they were shipwrecked on a reef, and that Luxton was left for dead
on the beach until he came back to life again with a body full of
contusions and abrasions. They stayed here several days patching the
Tilikum, and then, on October 17, sighted Suva Harbor lights and
were taken in tow by the port captain's launch.(l2)
  The stay in Suva was pleasant, and Luxton, who said the shipwreck
on Duff Reef had taken his last reserve of strength, here parted
company with his partner. Voss, who did not even mention the
shipwreck, claimed Luxton approached him with the proposal to
engage another seaman in his place, and to continue on to Sydney by
steamship himself.
  Luxton's version was that Voss had approached him with the news
that the doctor had told him that Luxton was in no condition to
continue on the Tilikum and should go to Australia by steamship.
Also, Voss warned, it was either that or write to Mr. Swan in Samoa,
that Luxton had decided to commit suicide.
  Luxton did leave the Tilikum and took passage to Sydney, leaving
Voss to recruit a man named Louis Begent in a Suva bar. Luxton said
he tried to get Begent to throw away the Tilikum's liquor supply
before they departed, and warned him about Voss, to no avail.
During the passage, Voss claimed Begent was washed overboard in a
storm. In his private correspondence, Luxton later said he felt sure
that Voss killed Begent in a drunken fight and threw him overboard.
He also claimed that Voss did not deny this when Luxton accused
him of it. While he was convalescing in Sydney, Luxton primed the
newspapers to expect Voss and the Tilikum (and no doubt share the
publicity with him). When Voss finally landed, days overdue and
Begent missing, the papers had an even better story. Luxton said
Voss was in the hospital for weeks suffering from exposure and "sick-
ness he contracted through the women on the islands" (those "prin-
cesses," no doubt).
  After making numerous appearances together in Australia, the two

    ~ 21 ~

erstwhile adventurers parted company in Melbourne. Luxton had an
extended stay in Australia, and fortunately being a fair photographer
even in that day and with the equipment he carried with him, he left
a remarkable record of their ports of call and life aboard the Tilikum
which did not come to light until his journal was published in 1971.
Although he claimed he still owned two-thirds of one-half of the
Tilikum, and all the rights to subsequent published works, he never
pressed his claims, and was even enthusiastic about Voss's later book,
which he recommended highly for its value as a sailing manual for
small vessels.
  Luxton never saw Voss again, and returning to Canada, married,
and founded a tourist haberdashery, trading post, and taxidermist
shop in Banff, which he called "The Sign of the Goat Trading Post."
He also bought and published Banff's first newspaper, the Crag and
Canyon, and as early as 1906 established himself as a publicist and
promoter of Banff as a Canadian Switzerland. For the next half-
century, until he died October 26, 1962, Norman Kenny Luxton was
a familiar sight in the growing little tourist center of Banff, usually
dressed gaily in his buckskin clothes and wearing a ten-gallon hat. He
received many civic honors in his active life, including the title of
Chief White Eagle from the Blackfeet Indians for his support of the
IndiAn Association and his efforts in founding the Banff Indian Days
annual celebration. He married his "princess," daughter of David
McDougall, a pioneer rancher and trader, who was the first white
child born in what is now Alberta.
  As far as is known, Luxton never even saw the ocean again and never
discussed in public his adventure with Captain Voss. In his journal,
written for his daughter, Eleanor Georgina, he claimed that a spiri-
tualist, whom he consulted before he left Australia, described to him
exactly what happened that night when Voss allegedly had a drunken
fight with Louis Begent and threw him overboard. Until his death,
Luxton also firmly believed that Voss was lost at sea during his Japa-
nese adventures.
  Meanwhile, however, Captain John Claus Voss, whom we left
alive and well in Australia, had a different story to tell. He said that
upon arrival he looked up Luxton, who had given him up for lost.
Luxton was distraught about the loss of Begent and blamed himself
for leaving the Tilikum. Voss called Luxton a good shipmate and a
careful sailor. "I am quite sure that had he remained on the vessel in
Suva and made the trip with me to Sydney, the accident would not
have happened. I therefore urged him to continue the voyage to

    ~ 22 ~

Europe, but in spite of all my pleadings he refused to go on, and so I
became the sole owner of the Tilikum and all her fittings.''(l8)
  Voss's version of the spiritualist was that Luxton had engaged her
and she had warned him the Tilikum would be damaged before he
left Australia. The vessel was placed on display by Voss, along with
the British Columbia Indian artifacts which were still with them, and
taken on tour of various cities to earn money for the voyage. At one
point, Tilikum was dropped by a carrier while being moved and Voss
sued the company for damages.(l4) He also recruited another mate for
the next leg of the voyage, one of many male and female applicants,
and the first of several before the voyaging was done with. After
numerous adventures, Voss sailed to Hobart, Tasmania (as Slocum
had), where one of his greeters was the sister of Louis Begent, whom
he reported, bore him no ill will.
  New Zealand was the next stop of the Tilikum, and a fine welcome
was had. There he participated with the vessel in local celebrations
which included an exhibition of running the surf to the delight of
spectators, and for which he was paid �50.
  After a lecture tour and many fetes, the captain departed New
Zealand August 17, 1902, with MacMillan, a well-educated man of
refined manners, for the New Hebrides and the Great Barrier Reef.
They explored through Torres Strait and into the Indian Ocean,
sailed to the Keeling-Cocos Islands, Rodriguez, and Durban with
many adventures.(15)
  A long stay was made in South Africa, and in Johannesburg he ran
into an old fortune-hunting buddy from Xora days, now married and
with a beautiful home, a wife, and two sweet young children. "Mac"
was still chasing rainbows, and in Africa he was on the trail of gold
and diamonds. Captain Voss found Johannesburg, at six hundred
miles from the ocean, too far from salt water, and soon departed.
In Pretoria, Tilikum was damaged,(l6) several old friends from
Victoria showed up, and a new mate was signed on. The next stop
was St. Helena, and then course was shaped for Pernambuco on the
Brazilian bulge, which Voss had not visited since 1877 when he was
on his first voyage to sea in a 300-ton sailing ship out of Hamburg,
Germany, bound for Guayaquil, Ecuador. They remained two weeks
in Pernambuco, and on June 4, at 3 P.M., they were towed to sea and
the long sail uphill to London by way of the Azores began.(l7)
  On August 29, Tilikum was tacking off the Cape Lizard light. On
September 2, at 4 P.M., the jetty at Margate was rounded, and
thousands of people lined up to watch.

           ~ 23 ~  

  From the distance came a voice: "Where are you from?"
  "Victoria, British Columbia."
  'How long have you been on this voyage?"
  "Three years, three months, and twelve days."
  Then a great cheer went up from the crowd.
  In England, Captain Voss was lionized and idolized. Twice he was
nominated for a Fellowship in the Royal Geographical Society
although for unknown reasons he was never elected nor ever officially
became a member.(18)
  Other adventures followed, including a spell on the Japanese seal-
ing schooner Chichishima Maru, and a subsequent voyage on the Sea
Queen, a Thomas Fleming Day Sea Bird-type, built by two young
men, F. Stone and S. A. Vincent of the Yokohama Yacht Club. On
July 27, 1912, they put to sea in the Sea Queen, on a planned world
cruise which terminated in a typhoon and a limp back to port a
month later under jury rig.(l9)

  Nothing much was known about Voss after his Japanese episode (20)
until his surviving daughter, Mrs. Caroline Kuhn, was located in
Portland, Oregon, in 197Z. Luxton was convinced that Voss had died
in the typhoon. Others think the John C. Voss "of Germany," who
died of pneumonia in Tracy, California, on February 27, 1922, was
the same man who sailed out of Victoria in the Tilikum on May 20,
1901, with Luxton. On his death certificate, he was listed as "Captain,
Sea Boat."
  The Tilikum? After she arrived in England on September 2, 1904,
she was exhibited for a time, and then left to rot on the Thames mud
flats for twenty years or so. In 1928, a group of British naval officers
found the derelict ship with the help of the National Museum at
Greenwich, the Victoria Publicity Bureau, and various yachting
magazines. The canoe was then in the possession of two brothers,
E. W. and A. Bydord, who agreed to give it to Victoria on the condi-
tion that Tilikum never be exhibited for financial gain. She was trans-
ported to British Columbia and restored by the Thermopylae Club
and public donations. Since June 8, 1965, Tilikum has been on
display at the Maritime Museum in Victoria. The figurehead, which
had been damaged by a kick from a horse in Pretoria, has been
restored, as have other parts, exactly the way it was when Voss and
Luxton sailed her.

  While researching the Voss legend in 1972, which turned up
sources in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, and
England, I discovered that Captain Voss's only surviving family

   ~ 24 ~

member, Mrs. Caroline Kuhn, then about eighty-four, was living less
than two miles from my office in Portland, Oregon. She had lived in
her neat and aging little home in the Albina district for forty years,
there raising two daughters of her own after divorce from her hus-
band, and educating them on a small income as a pianist. Alert,
rather dainty, but with unmistakable Voss features, she idolized her
  "The last time I saw him before he died in Tracy, California, we
talked a lot. He was always laughing."
  Her father, she said, loved the sea and always believed he would
never drown. He was a restless man, always on the go, and he had
made a lot of money in the hotel business. Caroline, the oldest of
three children, could not remember how she came to be born inland
at Denver, Colorado, but at this period Voss had been following the
gold fever and no doubt it was for business reasons.
  Caroline grew up in Victoria, where her father owned and oper-
ated at least two hotels, the Queen's and the Victoria. "It was during
the gold rush and father did very well." She thinks her father
financed the Tilikum venture, not Luxton.
  Before he left, her father told her that, if she had been a boy, he
would have taken her along. He did not, however, indicate that he
wanted to take either of his two sons. From Australia, he sent for his
wife. Caroline remembers her mother "dropped her off in Portland"
on the way, where she has made her home ever since.
  After Voss returned from his sea adventures, he bought another
hotel in Victoria and brought Caroline up from Portland for the
grand opening. This was before she married, and her father gave her
a lot of money, she said, "to buy all the clothes I needed."
  Later Voss moved to Tracy, California, where he had relatives.
Caroline believed it was because of a pending divorce. Her mother
followed him to California, but later returned and divorced him. Her
father, Caroline said, was very bitter about this.
  Voss never went back to the Pacific Northwest. He bought a Ford
and started a jitney service a sort of mini-bus type of operation,
common to West Coast cities in those days. He was in his eighties,
she thinks, when he died.(21)
  She had not read Luxton's journal, but defended her father vigor-
ously. "Anyone who knew him would never believe those things about
him. He was very kind to us, and everyone liked him. He was a good
man who could not get over his love for the sea."
  And so Captain John Claus Voss passes into a kind of immortality,

   ~ 25 ~

along with the man he tried to surpass, Captain Joshua Slocum. A
man inclined to braggadocio perhaps, and even to prevarication, but
he was a master of the sea and its moods and of small vessels that
challenge it perhaps one of the greatest seamen of all time. For half
a century, he has been a mysterious, controversial character, and his
techniques have been belittled and disparaged by some of the best-
known bluewater sailors. But they invariably were given to superficial
  An innovator and experimenter, a resourceful and courageous man,
his greatest fault seems to have been the inability to sell himself
convincingly. He was a man of action, not of words.

    ~ 26 ~

 - end Chapter 2 -

To Chapter 3.

===================================================================== AUTHOR's NOTES Chapter Two 1. The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss by John Claus Voss, Charles E. Lauriat Company, Boston, 1913. First published in Yokohama in 1913 a second edition appeared in London in 1926, followed by a "cheap edition" in 1930. A Mariners Library edition appeared in the 1960s, but the book is long out of print and scarce, especially in the original printings. The most controversial, misquoted, misread, and misunderstood book on small-craft voyaging ever published, it is also one of the most literate and fas- cinating. It is so well-written that I am inclined to believe that Voss never wrote it. The style suggests that it was at least rewritten from Voss's original manuscript by a professional, and my guess would be none other than Weston Martyr, who first met Voss at Cape Town and later came to know him well in Yokohama (and who, in fact, wrote the introduction to the original). It is far superior as a literary account of voyaging in the early 1900s than Luxton's posthumous account, published in 1972, almost sixty years later. In spite of detractors (who seem not to have read Venturesome Voyages) the techniques of heavy weather sailing in small vessels, related in detail by Voss, remain among the best and most authentic ever published, and were certainly the first. They are as valid today as they were when Voss experimented with them. Many of the popular voyaging books that came later relate versions of Voss's techniques without credit, or at least unknowingly. Those who have deprecated Voss's use of the sea anchor, for example, apparently never really studied his technique, for their versions differ in important details from Voss. For more than half a century, Voss's book has been underrated and too often casually dismissed. It deserves a fresh appraisal and evaluation, especially for its sea lore. 2. Although later writers claim Voss's beginnings are shrouded in mystery, the old gentleman himself once gave his birthday as August 6, 1858, and related that he shipped on his first voyage to sea at Hamburg, Germany, in 1877, on a 300 ton bark bound for Guayaquil, Ecuador. 3. British Columbia Directory for 1895. 4. This was confirmed by none other than Weston Martyr, who met Voss in Cape Town and later in Japan. 5. Luxton's book, edited and published after his death from his private letters to his family, appears to be mostly casual memoirs of an old man not intended for readers outside the family circle. The fact that he made no effort to publish his account during his lifetime, although he owned and operated a printing business, is strong evidence that he was afraid to do so. An oppor- tunist, if nothing else, Luxton probably saw in Voss an opportunity to cash in on the contemporary Slocum fever, but found in Voss a stronger and more mature personality. 6. Luxton's version of how they raided the Indian burial grounds does not follow Voss's. The latter wrote that they acquired the trinkets while on the west coast of Vancouver Island waiting for the weather to improve which is probably the actual case since not enough time had elapsed between acquiring and outfitting the Tilikum and their departure to have done all the things Lux- ton said they did. 7. There is neither an authentic record of these charges nor of reg- istering the Tilikum as the Pelican. 8. Voss and Luxton differ in their accounts of the stay on the west coast of the island. Also, Voss said he accompanied the Indian whaling expedi- tion, and gave his own version of it. 9. Luxton and Voss are invariably a day or so apart in their accounts of arrival and departure, indicating that either or both of them had dropped or lost a day in his log. Most likely Voss was correct, since he was the navigator and knew their actual position in respect to the International Dateline. 10. Voss makes no mention, of course, of the episode involving the use of the gun, and in fact it is probably not true. 11. Voss dismisses the entire Samoan interlude as follows: "The Samoan Islands, the natives and their habits, have been so often de- scribed that I omit that part, and proceed with my voyage." It is probable that Luxton did try to make some trouble for Voss here, but the latter chose to ig- nore it. 12. Luxton's account of the shipwreck and Voss's alleged attempt to abandon him does not hold water, and in fact the time element precludes that it ever happened. 13. The Venturesome Voyages of Captain voss, by John Claus Voss, Charles E. Lauriat Company, Boston, 1913. 14. Voss devotes an entire chapter to this trial and the dramatic demonstrations which he put on to convince the jury that the defendants were at fault. This has an air of being highly overdramatized, almost like a Perry Mason courtroom drama. But it is a fact that everywhere Voss went he was feted and lionized as a hero and an outstanding seaman. In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and England, he took every opportunity to have the Tilikum hauled out and transported sometimes hundreds of miles overland to exhibit at his lectures. 15. In Dunedin, New Zealand, Voss had his name changed to McVoss and the ladies of the town sponsored Tilikum in a floral parade, decorating it with flowers from keel to tops of masts. During Voss's stay in New Zealand, he became friends with Harold Buck- ridge, who had just returned from Captain Scott's South Pole expedition on the relief ship Morning, and who joined the Tilikum as a crew member for a time participating with Voss in the surf-running exhibitions at Sumno. During one of Voss's lectures, Buckridge jumped up and related some episodes of his South Pole expedition at great length, not knowing that also in the audience was Lieutenant Ernest (later Sir Ernest) Shackleton, his superior, who later became famous for his own South Pole adventures. Sailing to Nelson via French Pass, Voss comments at length on the local legend of Peloris Jack, the only circumnavigator to make direct reference to this unique mammal. He reports, however, that Peloris Jack failed to show up to accompany him, although Voss waited on the west side of the strait for slack water as all vessels had to do. Conor O'Brien later also commented on Peloris Jack. Peloris Jack was more than a legend. He was a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), a beakless species of the Tasman Sea. This dolphin met and accom- panied ships that crossed the Cook Strait, between the North and South islands for more than twenty years. In the spring of 1912, the dolphin disappeared and was believed to have died of old age. The complete story can be found in Dol- phins, the Myth and the Mammul by Antony Alpers (Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press, 1961 ) . 16. The Tilikwn's figurehead was kicked by a horse. 17. Voss had first visited Pernambuco in 1877 as a young seaman. It was here that the British consul made him remove the Canadian flag which he had used up to now, and replace it with the British ensign. 18. Voss claims to have been elected to membership, but the Society's records do not list him as such. 19. The account of the Sea Queen's voyage, during which Voss cele- brated his fifty-fourth birthday and was twice interrupted, is one of the best of the small-boat adventures. The first departure was aborted about six hundred miles at sea due to a bad leak; the second attempt was met with the worst typhoon in memory, in which many ships foundered. The Sea Queen, although capsized twice, made it safely back to Yokohama under jury rig probably the most severe test ever given to Thomas Fleming Day's famous design. 20. After Voss's adventures with the Tilikum, he spent about five years as master of sealing schooners in the North Pacific. The 1911 treaty between the U.S., Russia, and Japan, which prohibited sealing put an end to this, and his share in the compensation paid to sealers was slow in coming. Most likely he returned to Victoria and the hotel business, during which time he went through a divorce from his wife, and the family scattered. 21. He was, in fact, only sixty-four at the time of his death.

To Chapter 3.

Return to Table of Contents.