September 26, 2012

The British Library Publishes Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sea Diary

The British Library is to publish the never before seen diary written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1880 during his voyage as ship’s surgeon on the Arctic whaler the Hope, which has been hidden from public view for over a century. This dramatic and vivid account of Conan Doyle’s dangerous and bloody Arctic adventure at age 20 gives us new insight into the development of the young author who went on to create Sherlock Holmes. He tested himself, overcame the hardships, and, as he wrote later, “came of age at 80 degrees latitude.”

Dangerous Work comprises a full colour facsimile of this remarkable diary, showing Conan Doyle’s clear handwriting and pen-and-ink sketches of life on the Arctic sea, as well as a complete and annotated transcript of the diary and several non-fiction and fiction pieces based on the experience. These include the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Black Peter; a ghost story set in the Arctic, The Captain of the Pole-Star, which got him noticed in publishing circles as a promising young writer; and a magazine article called “The Glamour of the Arctic” which won him the respect of intrepid Arctic explorers. The book also includes photos of the Hope, the young Arthur Conan Doyle on deck, and the ship’s captain and crew.
With humour and grace, Conan Doyle provides a vivid account of a long-vanished way of life at sea. His careful detailing of the “murderous harvest” in the Arctic seas affords a rare and unflinching account of the latter days of the British whaling industry.

Jon Lellenberg, the volume’s co-editor with fellow Conan Doyle biographer Daniel Stashower, and representative of the Conan Doyle Estate, says: “In this diary’s entries, we see the young medical student step outside the classroom into settings of high adventure and great peril, finding his way among hard men whose skill and daring he came to respect greatly, and at the end of the voyage encountering a direct link to the first tale about Sherlock Holmes that he would write six years later.”

With thanks to Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. 

Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure is published on 26 September 2012, but can be pre-ordered via the British Library's Online Shop and all good book retailers.

Price £25.00 / 368 pages / ISBN 9780712358644

The book will be available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: and online at

The contents of Dangerous Work belong to the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. and the diary will remain with the Estate.