The Ionian Mission
|The Ionian Mission|
First edition cover (pre-Geoff Hunt)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)|
|Pages||pages (first edition, hardback) & pages (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-393-03708-8, (first edition, hardback) & ISBN 0-393-30821-9 (paperback edition UK)|
|Preceded by||The Surgeon's Mate|
|Followed by||Treason's Harbour|
The book opens with Captain Jack Aubrey and his lieutenants Pullings and Mowett aboard HMS Worcester, waiting for Jack's friend, and the ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin to embark. Stephen is late because his wife, Diana, had thrown a party. He drives to the coast to meet his ship, but the carriage, driven by his friend Jagiello, has an accident. Finally Stephen arrives in time and they set sail for the Mediterranean.
Worcester joins the blockade off Toulon under the command of Admiral Thornton. The ship soon settles into the blockade routine, with some of the crew improvising a choir and the midshipmen's berth acting out Hamlet. Jack's relationship with his aristocratic third lieutenant Somers deteriorates during the long blockade, culminating in a confrontation when a drunken Somers causes the ship to miss stays. Somers is transferred to another ship. In the meantime Stephen befriends Mr Martin, an impoverished parson and fellow bird lover, before he joins HMS Berwick. Stephen, after consulting with Admiral Thornton, is set ashore in Spain and spends his time there setting up a meeting with French royalists. While Admiral Thornton is in Malta, Admiral Harte, Thornton's second-in-command, sends Jack and William Babbington, the latter commanding the brig HMS Dryad, to take presents to the Pasha of Barka and deliver a new envoy, Mr Consul Hamilton. Upon discovering two French ships in Medina (now part of the city of Tunis), Jack and Babbington both enter the port, hoping to fight the French. However, as the port is a neutral location, the French are required to fire first and this they refuse to do. Despite tempting the French several times, the British have to leave and Jack's reputation as a fighting captain is dented.
Upon returning to the fleet Jack is summoned by Admiral Thornton and severely reprimanded, stating it was the British intention to have Dryad captured so that the British could have sent a squadron to oppose the Bey. Admiral Harte claims that he had explained this, but Jack had asked him write his orders which stated that 'scrupulous respect will be paid to the laws of neutrality' so is in the clear.
Worcester is ordered to Mahón to pick up Stephen. At Mahon Jack runs into his old lover Mercedes at the Crown, but before he can do anything Stephen enters and tells him he must set sail immediately. The crew, thinking that Jack is after a prize, are excited but eventually realize it is not to be: their mission is a more covert one in which they will land Stephen in France. Stephen is to meet with the royalists in a duck blind in an uninhabited coastal marsh. But the plan goes awry as another British agent has set up a meeting in the same area. The two groups stumble into each other and, in the confusion, exchange sporadic fire. While Stephen is hiding in the sand dunes waiting for Worcester's launch, he captures the other British agent, the same Professor Graham that Worcester brought to Mahon earlier in the book. Upon returning to the fleet Stephen hands him over to the Captain of the Fleet to act as his Turkish translator.
During a strong storm the French fleet leaves port, hoping to evade the British and enter the Atlantic. The British fleet gives chase, and although they catch them, the wind changes direction and the French men-of-war return to Toulon. The fastest British ships attempt to cut off their rear and Worcester exchanges a few shots with the slowest ship - the 80-gun Robuste - before giving up the chase. Admiral Thornton is too worn down by disappointment to continue and leaves the station. Admiral Harte, overcome by the political complexity of his temporary position as Commander-in-Chief, appoints Jack and his officers to command HMS Surprise - Worcester having been sent to Gibraltar for repairs and Captain Lambert, Surprise's former commander, and his first lieutenant having been killed by the same cannon ball. Also, in a show of false goodwill, he allows Jack to hand-pick his crew.
Harte then sends Surprise and Babbington’s Dryad on a mission to the Ionian Sea to put one of three Turkish Beys in control of Kutali and remove the French from Marga. After talking to all three claimants to the city Jack promises British support to Sciahan Bey, the present occupier of the island. The crew spends several days rigging out their cables to bring the expected cannons up to the city's citadel. However, Mustapha, one of the claimants that Jack didn’t back, rebels against the Ottomans and captures the British transport ships. Professor Graham returns from a mission into Turkey and hastily informs Jack about what has happened. Aubrey immediately sets sail and overtakes Mustapha’s two ships - the 32-gun Torgud with two thirty-six pounders on board, and the 20-gun Kitabi. After a long engagement Surprise's crew board and take the Kitabi and Torgud, leaving the Torgud sinking and the Kitabi a prisoner. Lieutenant Pullings is injured but Mowett informs Jack that he has survived.
Historical parallel for the battle against the Turkish ships
On the 5 and 6 July 1808 the British frigate HMS Seahorse (rated 38 guns), Captain John Stewart, fought an action against the much larger Turkish frigate Badere Zaffer (of 52 guns), Captain Scanderli Kichuc Alli, and an accompanying Turkish corvette, the Alis Fezzan. After a long and bloody action the Turkish frigate surrendered when her obstinate captain was overpowered by his remaining officers. The damaged Alis Fezzan escaped during the night. Of particular relevance to the plot of the Ionian Mission is that the Turkish frigate was armed with brass 24-pounder long guns and two immense 42-pounders (the nearest British gun equivalent for the French 36-pounder - French pounds were heavier than British pounds).
- Jack Aubrey - appointed captain of HMS Worcester
- Stephen Maturin - ship's surgeon, friend to Jack and an intelligence officer.
- Sophie Aubrey - Jack's wife
- Mrs. Williams - Sophie's mother
- Diana Maturin (formerly Mrs Villiers) - Stephen's wife
- Lieutenant Pullings - first lieutenant of HMS Worcester
- Lieutenant Mowett - second lieutenant of HMS Worcester, and a poet
- Somers - the drunken aristocratic third lieutenant of HMS Worcester
- Rowan - third lieutenant of HMS Worcester, and a poet
- Admiral Thornton - Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet
- Admiral Harte - Second-in-Command
- Admiral Mitchell - an admiral of the blue and commander of the inshore squadron; reached his position from the ranks of the foredeck.
- Captain Heneage Dundas - Captain of HMS Excellent and a close friend of Jack's
- Captain William Babbington - Captain of HMS Dryad and a former midshipman of Jack's
- Professor Graham - a professor of moral philosophy
- Mr Martin - an impoverished naval parson
- Dr Harrington - Physician of the Fleet
- Captain Harry Bennet - Captain of HMS Berwick
- Sciahan Bey - a Turkish Bey supported by Jack
- Mustapha - ruler of Karia and Turkish Capitan-Bey
- William Collins; 1981
- Fontana; paperback edition 1982
- HarperCollins; paperback edition 1993
- HarperCollins; B-format paperback edition 1996
- HarperCollins; paperback edition 2003. (ISBN 0 00 649922 8)
- Recorded Books, LLC; Unabridged Audio edition narrated by Patrick Tull (ISBN 1402591810)
- W. W. Norton & Company, USA, e-book edition 2011.
- Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1998). The Victory of Sea Power. London: Chatham Publishing. pp. 148-149.