Seven years before he started to write about a detective named Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle embarked on a trip at sea that would change his life and influence his future works. The journal he kept, which describes in colorful detail his days aboard a whaler called the Hope, will soon be published by the British Library. He served on the ship as its doctor in 1880, having run away for almost a year while studying medicine in Edinburgh.
In the journal, which showcases his tidy handwriting and detailed drawings of wildlife and scenes on the ship, Doyle writes poignantly about the unpleasant experiences of killing and skinning seals and falling into the freezing Arctic Ocean several times while jumping across ice floes. The diary is part of the Conan Doyle Estate and has not been seen by the public in over a century. Called Dangerous Work, it will be published on Sept. 26.
The Guardian printed several excerpts, including one about the potential for death by moving ice: “The danger in falling in is that with a heavy swell on as there is now, you may be cut in two pretty well by two pieces of ice coming together and nipping you. I got several drags, but was laid up in the evening as all my clothes were in the engine room drying.”
Doyle, who later wrote that he came of age on this trip, based two Sherlock Holmes stories on his voyage at sea: The Adventure of the Black Peter and The Captain of the Pole-Star. The publication of his journal follows a resurgence in interest in the knighted Brit and the spy of his creation. The action-packed Hollywood movies based on his detective were released in 2009 and 2011, and the BBC reimagined a modern-day Holmes in a recent TV series.
Dangerous Work will precede by at least three years Doyle’s first novel, The Narrative of John Smith, published for the first time just last year.