Around the World in a Dugout Canoe: The Untold Story of Captain John Voss and the Tilikum

Lynn J Salmon (Author) John MacFarlane (Author)


Anticipating fame and wealth, Captain John Voss set out from Victoria, BC, in 1901, seeking to claim the world record for the smallest vessel ever to circumnavigate the globe. For the journey, he procured an authentic dugout cedar canoe from an Indigenous village on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

For three years Voss and the Tilikum, aided by a rotating cast of characters, visited Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and finally England, weathering heavy gales at sea and attracting large crowds of spectators on shore. The austere on-board conditions and simple navigational equipment Voss used throughout the voyage are a testimony to his skill and to the solid construction of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth vessel.

Both Voss and his original mate, newspaperman N.K. Luxton, later wrote about their journey in accounts compromised by poor memories, brazen egos and outright lies. Stories of murder, cannibalism and high-seas terror have been repeated elsewhere without any regard to the truth. Now, over a century later, a full and fair account of the voyage--and the magnitude of Voss's accomplishment--is at last fully detailed.

In this groundbreaking work, marine historians John MacFarlane and Lynn Salmon sift fact from fiction, critically examining the claims of Voss's and Luxton's manuscripts against research from libraries, archives, museums and primary sources around the world. Including unpublished photographs, letters and ephemera from the voyage, Around the World in a Dugout Canoe tells the real story of a little-understood character and his cedar canoe. It is an enduring story of courage, adventure, sheer luck and at times tragedy.

Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
Harbour Publishing
Publish Date
April 04, 2020
6.3 X 1.0 X 9.1 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author

Lynn J. Salmon has written extensively on the marine history of BC and her articles have appeared in publications including Western Mariner and the Times Colonist. She worked as collections manager for eight years at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and recently concluded a fifteen-year career as a radio officer with the Canadian Coast Guard. She is senior editor of the Nauticapedia Project. She lives in Courtenay, BC.

John MacFarlane is the curator emeritus of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, curator of the Nauticapedia Project and author of a number of books and articles on nautical history. He was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy (Reserve). He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (London), recipient of the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers and the SS Beaver Medal for Maritime Excellence. He lives in Qualicum Beach, BC.


"This is a tale, a true tale, I can get behind. For the inner-child-adventurer in each of us, it has it all: a search for buried treasure, stormy seas, exotic locales, and deliciously sketchy accounts pieced together from personal journals, logbooks, letters, and wildly differing accounts. But whatever information was recorded, authors John MacFarlane and Lynn Salmon have unearthed it, pieced it together like a once scattered jigsaw and meticulously reassembled an engaging, informative page-turner. This is rock-solid historical writing, composed by acutely knowledgeable and passionate researchers. Researchers who know how to share a great story."

--Bill Arnott "Miramichi Reader "

"The authors have illuminated a remarkable and little-known piece of Canadian history with this intriguing book. It will appeal to maritime history buffs and to general readers. With its storms at sea, its adventures and fierce interpersonal conflicts, it would make a compelling movie."

--Tom Sandborn "Vancouver Sun "

"The story [MacFarlane and Salmon] tell is both remarkable and inspiring. It is a testament to human determination and perseverance--and to the commitment to reach a goal that would seem unattainable to most. This is a key part of Victoria history, but also international maritime history. This book matters."

--Dave Obee "The Times Colonist "
"This engrossing tale of the Tilikum and her circumnavigation of the globe is a fascinating story put together by two of Western Canada's most accomplished maritime history writers, John M. MacFarlane and Lynn J. Salmon. Solidly anchored research backed by primary source material from around the globe makes this story of Captain John Voss and his adventures and trials at sea in a small dugout canoe a thoroughly engaging read." - Rick James, author of Don't Never Tell Nobody Nothin' No How