The Cruise of the “Alerte” by E.F. Knight


E.F. Knight was a barrister and writer whose handbook Small Boat Sailing (1901) was recommended by Arthur Ransome ('Has everything in it that anybody could want to know about sailing small boats'), while his earlier book Sailing (1889) was studied avidly by John in We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea and by Dick in The Picts and the Martyrs. Knight's The Falcon on the Baltic and Cruise of the "Alerte" in Search of Treasure were included in Rupert Hart-Davis's Mariner's Library, with introductions by AR.

In Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk pp. 164-168 Christina Hardyment points out how much Peter Duck owes to The Cruise of the "Alerte", particularly in the similarities between Knight's Trinidad and Ransome's Crab Island, both of which are volcanic in origin and subject to landslips, and both infested with loathsome land-crabs. There are other parallels: both expeditions had a ship's monkey — Jacko in the case of the Alerte, and Gibber in the case of the Wild Cat — and both took with them an arsenal of guns in the event of trouble from other treasure-seekers. There are also comic dissimilarities: for example in the scale of the excavations they carried out, and in the failure of the one to recover the great golden candlesticks of Lima, compared with the 'success' of the other in finding a few small bags of pearls.

I am grateful to John Higgins for the loan of his copy of The Cruise of the "Alerte", and hope that visitors to the Arthur Ransome Web pages will enjoy reading Knight's tale of adventure as much as I have done.
Tim Johns