The third book in Arthur Ransome's classic Swallows and Amazons series, published in 1932. The story is an adventure on the high seas as the Swallows, Amazons and Captain Flint (aka Uncle Jim) set off for Crab Island in the Southern Ocean in search of buried treasure, with their guide Peter Duck.
Unlike the two previous stories, Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale, Peter Duck is a made up adventure, told by the characters about themselves. it is meant to be told by the Swallows and Amazons as they visit Uncle Jim on his wherry in the Broads on a winters evening. The other books in series are usually based either in the Lake District, or on the Norfolk Broads of the United Kingdom giving them a firm grounding in reality, (even though the stories within them were normally about recreating great adventures, such as reaching the North Pole or prospecting for gold.) Giving the characters a chance to invent the story meant that Ransome could explore far more exotic imaginary locations and include events that could not occur on the inland waters of the UK (such as the Waterspout and their pursuit by pirates).
Peter Duck himself is based on Captain Sehmel, the "ancient mariner" of Ransome's book Racundra's First Cruise, not a Swallows and Amazons adventure but a true story of Ransome's own cruising adventures in the Baltic. Schemel's past on the sea was never fully explained, but he had raced against the Cutty Sark on the and was, therefore, an experienced and notorious seaman who inspired Ransome to use him as a template for his adventurous old sailor.
Another source of inspiration was E. F. Knight's book The Cruise of the Alerte, another sailing story telling of a doomed expedition to Trinidad to hunt for buried treasure.
Peter Duck is an ideal adventure to read to young children at bedtime though the evil pirate Black Jake, the villain of the piece, may be rather frightening to smaller children. It was my favourite Ransome story and is a good way to get into the series.
Cruise of the Alert can be found online at
More information about the books of Arthur Ransome can be found at