Frank Thomas Bullen was a minor but respected member of the great fraternity of literary seafaring men. By the age of nine, he was a street urchin and errand boy about the docks of London. At twelve, he was rescued from this unpromising existence by his uncle, the master of the Arabella, who started him on those nautical adventures that eventually furnished him with the material for about fifteen books and many lectures. First as cabin boy, then as able-bodied seaman, he shipped aboard vessels from various ports of the world until, at the age of eighteen, he found himself in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he signed for a cruise on the whaler Cachalot.
When the expedition was over, he returned to London, where he became a clerk in the British government’s Meteorological Office and started work on his first and most important book, The Cruise of the “Cachalot,” a vivid and detailed account of life on a Yankee whaler. The book was highly praised—Rudyard Kipling termed it the finest report on the techniques of whaling that he had ever read—and with its success Bullen was able to devote all of his energies to writing. From this first achievement until his death on March 1, 1915, while on a trip to the island of Madeira, he wrote approximately one publication a year, and he gained enough prestige as a master of nautical lore to be in demand as a lecturer throughout the British Isles.