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Extended Audio Sample Two Years before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Henry Dana Narrator: Bernard Mayes Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2010 ISBN: 9781455172009
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Richard Henry Dana referred to this book as “a voice from the sea.” Influencing such authors as Conrad and Melville, it has become a maritime classic that has inflicted legions of men with a passion for the sea.

Dana, a law student turned sailor for health reasons, sailed in 1834 on the brig Pilgrim for a voyage from Boston around Cape Horn to California. Dana Point was named as a result of this journey. Drawing from his journals, Two Years before the Mast gives a vivid and detailed account, shrewdly observed and beautifully described, of a common sailor’s wretched treatment at sea, and of a way of life virtually unknown at that time.

This is a breathtaking true story of adventure on the high seas.

Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Possesses…the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • “Dana’s small book is a very great book.”

    D. H. Lawrence

  • “Almost two centuries later, we are all made richer by Dana’s classic memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, which is among the finest books ever written about the immensely popular subject of adventure at sea, and is as relevant and readable today as it was then.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[Dana’s] book about his time at sea is an American classic, vivid in its description of the sailor’s life and all its dangers and delights.”

    National Geographic Adventure Magazine, online exclusive

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ryan | 2/14/2014

    " I read this book because it is by the author that Dana Point, California is named after. It is quite an interesting account of life at sea aboard a sailing ship and those are definitely the most interesting parts. Although the accounts of early California life are interesting, his time spent laboring along the coast is almost as dull and tiring in print as it must have been in real life. Either way, once he gets back under way the story picks up again and I almost felt like I was there with him rigging the masts and all that cool sailor stuff. Ahoy! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 MaryJeanne | 2/13/2014

    " This non-fiction tale of a young student going to sea is as exciting as any novel I've ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alohagirl06 | 2/11/2014

    " Great read if you are into sea adventures. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shawn Thrasher | 2/9/2014

    " I know next to nothing about ships, boats, the sea, sailing, etc. I know that the ocean occasionally terrifies me to the point of immobility, that it's far more immense than my mind can fathom, and that I usually wouldn't pick up a book about the sea, particularly one written around 175 years ago. Two Years Before the Mast was lent to me by an elderly lady with whom I work, and while I initially, internally turned up my nose, I'm so glad I started reading it. It was such an exciting, interesting, pleasurable written. Perfectly written, almost perfectly understandable (for a 175 year old work, the language was remarkably modern save the nautical terms). Some of the scenes are adventurously terrifying and vividly realistic (the icebergs around Cape Horn, the horrible flogging). Living in Southern California, I got the extra bonus of reading about place names with which I'm really familiar, but from a historical perspective that was both unique and fascinating. A masterpiece! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maureen | 1/31/2014

    " Better than Moby Dick. Fyi, there's a Richard Henry Dana Jr. street in downtown SF. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Annie | 1/26/2014

    " Patrick O'Brien lists this memoir of a Harvard student who sails as a common sailer to California and back in the 1830s as an important source for his historical novels, and I found it as informative as it was fun to read. Not only does Dana describe the life and day to day activities on board a sailing ship, he also explains nautical terms like "dog watch" that O'Brien loves to throw into his works and never define. I also enjoyed the descriptions of California under Mexican rule and the comparison of San Fransisco when Dana first saw it with his later visit to the post gold rush city. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 ara133photography | 1/22/2014

    " Quite adventuresome; good read; 4 stars for being a little on the dry side (though it should be the opposite, ha!). "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tuck | 1/22/2014

    " great book of sailing and a maritime classic. very interesting portion about loading and shipping cowhides from California in 1835. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amerynth | 1/19/2014

    " Richard Henry Dana's book "Two Years Before the Mast" actually did remind me of the ocean -- my interest level in the book ebbed and flowed like the tides. I found much of his tale of sailing to be somewhat mundane, but every once in a while, he'll get into a story about a crew member that is utterly fascinating. I particularly enjoyed reading about his experiences in wild California... which was the very highlight of the book for me. Overall, this book would be best for someone with a particular interest in sailing (as opposed to a general interest in exploration.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Scott Holmes | 1/18/2014

    " An incredible portrait of life at sea not so many years ago. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Suellen | 1/10/2014

    " Awesome book! Picked it up in the cottage we rented in Cape Cod and couldn't put it down! I had to go home a buy a copy. For people who like the movie, Master and Commander with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kailey | 12/30/2013

    " Amazing story of a sailing voyage! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew Bellamy | 12/29/2013

    " Has provided more imagery for my personal writing than any other source. Another long read, but the images will linger with you for months. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elmira | 12/25/2013

    " One a scale of 1 to 5 I'd give it a 7!!! Tough read but WELL worth it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe Talbot | 12/13/2013

    " A great book for historical perspective. A little dry though, I found myself struggling to finish this book, as it seemed more a jounal entry at times than anything else. All in all, this was a classic nautical tale and I would reccomend it to anyone who likes a good classic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gretchen | 11/29/2013

    " Feel as if I have more of an idea of what life on a ship in the 1800's was like. It is all relayed to us from the point of view of a new sailor who doesn't come from a maritime background so it is not hard to imagine ourselves in his place. Be prepared to brush up on all your sailing terminology! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 10/6/2013

    " Great look at California before it joined the union. Also includes many fascinating accounts of life at sea in those days. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 George Shubin | 8/26/2013

    " Back when I was a skin and SCUBA diver in Southern California, I found this history of some very familiar locales fascinating. Every time I dove around Dana Point, I was reminded of this book, and tried in my mind's eye to reconstruct the coast as it might have been in Dana's time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 William | 8/6/2013

    " I thought this book would be a novel, but it turns out to be a narrative. I found it tedious in parts especially of the year that the author spent in California. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Patricia | 8/7/2012

    " As I read this book, I kept thinking,"It HAS to get better." Regardless of how awful a book seems, I finish it. Perhaps, if someone had told me Dana's intention was to change the lives of Merchant Marines through this book, it would have changed my perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Isabella | 10/18/2010

    " I learned a lot from this book, espesially because I went on an overnight fieldtrip on a boat. Although it was kind of boring, I got a lot of stuff about a sailors life from it. It was pretty good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kailey | 10/13/2010

    " Amazing story of a sailing voyage! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jb | 9/23/2008

    " An 1830s classic diary. Author was a deckhand on board a ship that sailed from Boston around horn to an unpopulated California and back. Cites passage and shipboard perils as well as coastal encounters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charles | 9/5/2008

    " This is another classic that is often overrated, but there are sections that are pretty compelling. From a historical standpoint, it is certainly an important novel. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elmira | 6/8/2007

    " One a scale of 1 to 5 I'd give it a 7!!! Tough read but WELL worth it! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 David Kessler | 1/5/2007

    " Old style of writing which makes it a bit wordy. Still worth reading cause the voyage took place and was written 200 years ago. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 P.J. Sullivan | 7/24/2006

    " A college student drops out of school and goes to sea for his health. Not as a paying passenger but before the mast, working his way as a common seaman. This book is unembellished non-fiction. It does not need embellishment. Dating from the 1830s, it is one of the earliest accounts of California. "

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