I have a guilty pleasure fondness for what I like to call "expedition disaster" literature--true history tales of a journey to some place that goes bad--not enough food, the maps are bad, the ship gets stranded in ice, the natives are not as helpful as expected, and my favorite--they packed too much junk they don't need in favor of stuff they would. It's amazing how many 19th and early 20th century explorers set out with trunks filled with things like spice racks, tins of caviar, elegant plates, a leatherbound collection of the works of Plato, and an ivory chess set.
That last problem doesn't usually show up in stories about whaling expeditions gone wrong. Whalers were made of tougher stuff, even the captains were rarely from an aristocracy accustomed to fine things, and a whaling ship just didn't have room for extras. There was, however, plenty of room for things to go wrong on a whaling expedition. A failure to kill any whales could turn an average voyage into an ever more desperate search that stretched miles, months, and years long than planned. A captain could be cruel and unreasonable. Bad weather could strike. One of the sailors could be a psychopath. That last one is what sparked the misadventures of the Globe, a Nantucket whaling ship, a story told by Thomas Farel Heffernan in "Mutiny on the Globe: The Fatal Voyage of Samuel Comstock."
Samuel Comstock, a twenty one year old from a well-off Quaker family, had been trouble practically from the start. He fought, ran away, fought some more, and caused mayhem everywhere he went. He did the kind of things that people, surely even back then, would have a hard time dismissing as just the energy of a lively boy. Instead, his rages and battles were the kind that made anyone around him a little nervous--including his brothers William and George, who both idolized him for his inventiveness, swagger, and confidence, but also recognized that it was right to fear him a little. We know this because William became a writer of some recognition, who detailed his brother's actions; George was on Samuel's final voyage and wrote his own account of his brother's deadly actions.