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Jack Aubrey, a brilliant and fearless Captain in Nelson's navy, accepts a mission that will test his abilities to the limit: he is to set sail immediately for Cape Horn, to intercept a powerful frigate intent on wreaking havoc among British whalers. Aubrey's beloved ship, H.M.S. Surprise, is up to the task, butht e ranks of her crew have been thinned, and many of her sialors are untried. Aubrey's confidant, ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin, has orders of his own in the world of secret intelligence. As the Surprise and her crew draw closer to the enemy, their journey grows ever more dangerous: murder, shipwreck, and a desperate rescue attempt await them in the far reaches of the Pacific.