It had been six weeks since the 932 passengers and sixty-man crew aboard the clipper Marco Polo had left England bound for Melbourne. They had just crossed the northern latitude of the Roaring Forties, some 350 nautical miles south of the Cape of Good Hope.
Suddenly a fearsome Southern Ocean storm charged in from beyond the western horizon and locked Marco Polo in its jaws. In a matter of hours, the moderate seas turned to mountainous breaking combers, accompanied by a howling and callously cold wind, quite possibly laced with flurries of snow.
Abject fear filled the minds of the passengers huddled below deck in an alien world.
But they weren't alone when it came to their anxiety: even members of the crew were unnerved. The end of this nightmare could not come soon enough for all on board.