A Furnace Afloat : The Wreck of the Hornet and the Harrowing 4,300-mile Voyage of Its Survivors (Click on book title for more info) Over the years a handful of famous shipwrecks have become symbols of something greater, their accounts compromising a floating opera of sudden disaster, wasted life, and privations endured by survivors. The saga of the "Hornet is one such disaster wherein the survivors struggled for life for six weeks and drifted an amazing 4,300 miles. The "Hornet left New York City on January 15, 1866, embarking on a routine voyage to San Francisco around Cape Horn. Sailing was exceptionally smooth until the morning of May 3, when the first mate accidentally set some varnish on fire. Within minutes, it engulfed the ship. The entire company escaped into three small boats, adrift in the Pacific beneath the burning sun. Their ordeal was beyond harrowing: they were stalked by sharks, driven mad by lack of food and water, desiccated by heat. Soon, the social divisions among the boats erupted into class war and the crew plotted mutiny--and then cannibalism. On the fateful day they were to draw straws, they reached Hawaii. Subsequently, Mark Twain, then a young reporter, would tell their extraordinary story and make them all famous. Drawn from extensive primary sources, including survivors' diaries and letters, as well as newspaper articles and Twain's reporting, Joe Jackson has created a gripping narrative of the horrors and triumphs of men against the sea. "A Furnace Afloat is an important, largely untold piece of American naval history.