The sea holds many secrets. Sixteen-year-old Bel can't cope with her parents' divorce, and is sent to a family farm on an island in the Marlborough Sounds. She finds a lonely beach where she sits on the rocks and contemplates her problems. She is approached by a strange young woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing - and soon she realises the visitor is a troubled ghost. Lizzie Dawson has waited well over 150 years to tell her sad tale.
In the 1830s Lizzie (at the age of 16) was taken against her will to a shore whaling station set up on that very beach. She was forced to marry the headsman of the station, a violent character called Jack Dawson. It was a grim place, full of death. But then Lizzie met Matthew, a young Maori preacher, and fell in love... A double tragedy followed - and now Lizzie cannot be at peace until an ancient wrong is put right. Bel is the person Lizzie chooses to discover the secrets of the past.
The inspiration for this story was a real person - Elizabeth Guard, who lived in a whaling station at Te Awaiti in the Marlborough Sounds in the 1830s. She was married (aged 16) to the headsman of the station, Jacky Guard. The real Elizabeth led a long and adventurous life; my fictional Lizzie had a short and tragic one.
I've often wondered how the real Lizzie coped with life at the whaling station. Eye-witness accounts of the whaling stations describe primitive reed huts, polluted water, try-pots belching oily smoke, and decomposing whale carcasses lying everywhere. In this environment Elizabeth Guard gave birth to her first child, attended only by local Maori women.
Look up Elizabeth Guard in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and list the noteworthy events of her life.