Johnson, Donald S. 1932-
JOHNSON, Donald S. 1932-
Home—Boydens Lake Rd., Perry, ME 04667.
Sailor, writer. University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME, guest curator of Smith Center for Cartographic Education Osher Map Library nautical exhibition Charting Neptune's Realm: From Classical Mythology to Satellite Imagery, 2000-01.
Charting the Sea of Darkness: The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson, International Marine (Camden, ME), 1993.
Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, Goose Lane (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1994, revised edition published as Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: The Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1996.
Contributor to maritime magazines and journals, including Ocean Navigator, Practical Boat Owner, and Sea History.
Sailor Donald S. Johnson has crossed the Atlantic Ocean five times in a twenty-seven foot sailboat and has written several books of maritime history. Among them are Charting the Sea of Darkness: The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson, called "an excellent account" by Clarence J. Murphy in Science Books & Films. Johnson notes that only four years of Hudson's life can be accounted for. In addition, no likeness of Hudson has survived to give us a clue as to his appearance. Johnson introduces the book by explaining the search by the English and the Dutch for a northwest or northeast passage to the Orient. He also notes the earlier voyages of explorers that include the Cabots, Cartier, Frobisher, and Davis.
Johnson devotes one chapter each to the four voyages taken by Hudson beginning in 1607. Each chapter has a prologue and a journal that contains excerpts from the third book of Samuel Purchas's Purchas His Pilgrims, published in London in 1625. This book includes portions of Hudson's original logs and those of his mate, Robert Juet, and a passenger, Abacuck Prickett. Next comes an epilogue that discusses the voyage and the journal, and finally, a concluding piece contains maps and illustrations. Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, is described in the appendices, as are North Atlantic currents and statistics regarding boat speed and distances. On the Half Moon, which was amazingly small, just sixty-five feet long and fourteen feet wide, Hudson and his crew endured bad weather, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate and spoiled food.
Johnson draws from the journals and logs in studying the explorations of the waterway now known as the Hudson River. These documents reflect Hudson's admiration for the Native Americans he met, but also show that he was liberal in supplying them with alcohol and in kidnapping them. Douglas A. Sylva noted in the New York Times Book Review that Johnson "also recounts Hudson's growing obsession with locating a northwest passage, an obsession that ultimately led to mutiny in 1610." Hudson died when he, his son, and a handful of sick sailors were set adrift in a small boat.
Phantom Islands of the Atlantic was revised and reprinted as Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: The Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were. The seven islands were figments of the imaginations of voyagers and navigators disoriented by storm or fog, mistaking their position when they made landfall without benefit of navigational instrumentation. These fictional islands, along with sightings of monsters of the deep, were added to early maps. Johnson provides a history of these seven islands, which include the Isle of Demons, supposedly located off Newfoundland and populated by mythical creatures, St. Brendan, named for a sixth-century Irish monk, and an island named for fifth-century St. Ursula, whose traveling companions were 11,000 virgins. Other missing islands are Frisland, Buss Island, the Isle of Seven Cities, and Hy-Brazil, supposedly off the coast of Ireland.
A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this admirably researched and well-written account, with numerous maps and illustrations, vividly illustrates how interesting the often-overlooked science of geography can be." "There are plenty of good stories here," remarked John Kenny in Library Journal. Amelie Southwood wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "the legends behind the phantom islands … are fascinating."
Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle was the seventeenth-century explorer who is the subject of Johnson's La Salle: A Perilous Odyssey from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle was the first to navigate the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, thereby taking claim to a huge section of North America that he named Louisiana. Johnson documents the European effort to control this continent and provides new information about La Salle's other expeditions on the Ohio River and in Texas and his last, during which he was killed by his men after failing to reach the mouth of the Mississippi from the Caribbean. Information recovered with the discovery of La Salle's ship Belle in 1995 now brings that history into view.
Johnson was guest curator of the nautical exhibit Charting Neptune's Realm: From Classical Mythology to Satellite Imagery, offered by the University of Southern Maine's Smith Center for Cartographic Education. The exhibit ran until 2001 but remains available at the Osher Map Library Web site.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1996, Brad Hooper, review of Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: The Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were, p. 697.
Library Journal, December, 1996, John Kenny, review of Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, p. 130; October 1, 2002, Margaret Atwater-Singer, review of La Salle: A Perilous Odyssey from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, p. 113.
New York Times Book Review, January 3, 1993, Douglas A. Sylva, review of Charting the Sea of Darkness: The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson, p. 14; February 16, 1997, Amelie Southwood, review of Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1996, review of Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, p. 69.
Science Books & Films, May, 1993, Clarence J. Murphy, review of Charting the Sea of Darkness, p. 105.
University of Southern Maine, Smith Center for Cartographic Education, Osher Map Library Web site,http://usm.maine.edu/maps (August 15, 2003).*