British Library to publish Arthur Conan Doyle's personal diary from Arctic whaling adventures

By Culture24 Reporter | 06 August 2012
An image of a large historical diary written in black pen and ink with naval illustrations
Arthur Conan Doyle's hand-drawn illustrations feature in Dangerous Work© Conan Doyle Estate Ltd
Arthur Conan Doyle’s pen-and-ink sketches of life on the Arctic sea, compiled in a personal diary of wit and gore during his bloody adventures on the Arctic sea in 1880, are to be published for the first time.

The British Library will produce a full colour facsimile, Dangerous Work, in a “dramatic and vivid” account of life on whaler vessel the Hope from the future creator of Sherlock Holmes, who acted as the ship’s surgeon.

“In this diary’s entries, we see the young medical student step outside the classroom into settings of high adventure and great peril,” says Jon Lellenberg, a biographer of the author who has co-edited the largely-handwritten volume with fellow Conan Doyle researcher Daniel Stashower.

“He was finding his way among hard men whose skill and daring he came to respect greatly. At the end of the voyage he encountered a direct link to the first tale about Sherlock Holmes [A Study in Scarlet] that he would write six years later.”

A master of the chilling, Conan Doyle’s Polar experience also pervades The Adventure of the Black Peter – an Arctic ghost story – and The Captain of the PoleStar, which won the young writer acclaim in publishing circles.

A magazine article, The Glamour of the Arctic, was also noted for the respect it earned among Arctic explorers, some of whom are portrayed in photos of the writer on deck with the ship’s captain and crew, as well as photos of the Hope.

Holmes’s detailing of the “murderous harvest” he saw in the whaling industry is said to be unflinching, but his account has also been praised for its humour and grace. The hardships of the journey, according to the writer, helped him “come of age at 80 degrees latitude”.

The book will be published on September 26 2012.
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