The narrative of The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and Johann Rudolf Wyss, opens dramatically in Chapter 1 with a description of the family on a ship which had been driven off course by a tempest that had raged for six days. Although the Captain orders lifeboats launched as the ship starts to break apart, the family does not reach them, and instead weathers the night in the ship, using their own ingenuity to fashion impromptu life-preservers from materials near at hand.
Before Chapter 1, though, is a short "Introduction" explaining how the family came to be on the ship. The father was described as a Swiss clergyman who lost his fortune in the "Revolution of 1798", which was an Irish Roman Catholic uprising against English rule, supported in part by the French. The family then moved to England, from whence they were traveling to Otaheite, where the father had obtained a position as a missionary, with the eventual aim of attempting to emigrate to "Port Jackson" (modern Sydney, Australia). At the time of the storm, they were traveling to Otaheite (modern name: Tahiti).