A 20-year-old runs away from his medical studies in Victorian Britain to spend a perilous year as a ship's doctor on an Arctic whaler. It may sound like a ripping yarn, but a previously unpublished book by Arthur Conan Doyle actually tells his own story. The British Library is releasing Dangerous Work, the Sherlock Holmes creator's illustrated journal of his year on the high seas, reports the Guardian. Doyle penned the journal in 1880, seven years before the first Holmes story. Doyle tells of falls overboard, the slaughter of seals, and recounts how the oldest member of the crew died in his arms.
"I did my best for him. Made a list of his effects in the evening. Rather a picturesque scene with the corpse and the lanterns and the wild faces around," writes the young Doyle. The Doyle biographer who co-edited the journal said the diary entries show 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." At the end of the voyage he encounters a "direct link to the first tale about Sherlock Holmes that he would write six years later," he notes.