Author David Gran doesn’t consider himself an adventurer, but he will travel to the ends of the earth to perfect the stories he tells.
He spent two years poring over archival records about the lives of 145 castaways from an 18th-century British warship called The Wager but that wasn’t enough, he told 60 Minutes correspondent Jon Wertheim. So Gran flew to Chile, chartered a 52-foot vessel and found herself on what is now known as Weiser Island. Gran and his team endured the tempestuous waters on the ten-day journey. He crouched on the floor of the ship and popped some Dramamine on the way to the island.
“I would never put up with what these people put up with, but my own explorations sometimes lead me to places and to do things that I would never have done otherwise in my normal life,” Gran said. “You’ll never catch me going to Weaser Island in a small boat.”
With the British and Spanish empires at war, the wrecked battleship set sail as part of a squadron, circling Cape Horn in search of a Spanish galleon laden with treasure off the coast of the Philippines. This means negotiating some of the world’s most treacherous waters and winds. Weiser lost his way off the coast of Patagonia and ran into trouble in the Golfo de Peñas, or Gulf of Pain. It turned to stone and crumbled to pieces. The castaways swam to the nearest island and lived on the inhospitable spit of land for several months.
“I’m not an adventurer. … When I look at these people, I mean, I’m going to die first on the island,” Gran said. “Let’s be perfectly honest.”
Starving and sick with scurvy, the castaways coped with unrelenting cold and whipping winds. The only edible thing that grew on the island: celery, tough it cured their scurvy.
“There were no animals. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, there’s got to be something. Like, something. There’s got to be a rat,’ ” Gran said of her visit to Weiser Island. “But we found nothing.”
Although the 56-year-old author admits he loves indoors and hates camping, he says he first felt the need to travel to the island while researching “The Weezer” on April 18.
“There came a point where I started to fear that I would never fully understand what these 150 or so people went through on that island if I didn’t go,” Gran said. “There always comes a moment where something grabs you, something unknown. And so that’s when I decided to try this trip.”
Stranded on Weser Island, the separatists split into factions, with one group intent on overthrowing their captain: an act punishable by death. It was a classic rebellion.
“On this island you see everything going on. You see questions of leadership play out. You see questions of loyalty play out, questions of responsibility play out,” Grahn said. “You see human nature regressing. That’s what’s happening in this little storm.”
In 2009 for his first book, “The Lost City of Z,” a No. 1 bestseller turned into a feature film, Gran trekked through the Amazon to a place known as Green Hell, following in the footsteps of British explorer Percy Fawcett. . Since the age of 20, his deteriorating eye condition has made Gran’s shakes more difficult.
“It’s scary when you’re on an expedition. Like, you can’t see at night, and you’re stumbling, getting lost, or you’re falling, or you’re on a boat, or something like that,” he said. “But since I Know that I have this weakness, so I am observing as closely as I can. And in some ways, perhaps I could give more observation than if I could take it so easily.”
Gran first put those powers of observation to work as a reporter on Capitol Hill. But, tired of Washington spin, he wanted to write real stories. In 2003, he joined The New Yorker magazine. In one issue, he writes about a strange giant squid hunter in New Zealand; In another, the death penalty in Texas. This was predicated on complete research.
“The truth is that I don’t think you can really be a writer and a researcher and an investigator unless you’re obsessed on some level,” he said.
Reconstructing stories from history, with a twist, classic Gran. He created his own subgenre of narrative nonfiction: a page-turning mix of history, journalism, and true crime.
“The Lost City of Z” Gran’s first work to be adapted into a film. His 2017 book, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” lit up at a Hollywood auction, with a winning bid of $5 million. The film — directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio — will premiere at Cannes next month.
The movie will clock in at around four hours, Variety reported. It will break Scorsese’s and DiCaprio’s records for being the longest film.
Also optioned for the film “The Weezer”; This will be Gran’s sixth story on the big screen.