Joan Druett is an independent maritime historian and writer, married to Ron Druett, a highly regarded maritime artist. In 1986 she travelled to museums in the United States on a Fulbright Cultural Fellowship, to research the lives of women at sea. This led to three ground-breaking books, Petticoat Whalers, She Was a Sister Sailor, and Hen Frigates, all prize-winners. She Was a Sister Sailor received the John Lyman Award for Best Book of Maritime History; Petticoat Whalers (with a later book, She Captains) won the L. Byrne Waterman Award, and Hen Frigates received a New York Public Library Best Book to Remember Award. In 1992, with the aid of a Creative New Zealand grant, Joan returned to the United States, where she was a consultant for a museum exhibit, The Sailing Circle, which received the Albert Corey Award, which is infrequently granted by the American Association for State and Local History for works that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination. Returning to New Zealand in 1996, another Creative New Zealand grant enabled her to research castaway depots and wrecks in the sealing islands of the sub-Antarctic. This led to a Stout Fellowship at Victoria University, which she took up in 2001, and a best-selling book about a double wreck on Auckland Island in 1865, Island of the Lost, which has become a classic in the castaway genre, and is used as a text in universities in the United States and Australia. In 2009, a major Creative New Zealand grant enabled her to research the life of Tupaia, the extraordinary priest, orator and navigator, who guided Captain Cook on the Endeavour voyage, both at sea and through tricky intercultural situations on land, particularly in New Zealand, where Tupaia's actions undoubtedly saved lives, both Maori and European.
"It isn't easy to meld a raw jumble of research material into a cohesive and lively narrative but Druett has managed it with both scholarship and flair. She steers a scrupulous course between fact and speculation, and employs her novelist's instinct for a good story to augment her academic respect for history" Joan Curry, Christchurch Press, reviewing Tupaia."Druett's biography restores Tupaia's place in Pacific history and defines his role on the Endeavour... This reflects the originality and talent of one of New Zealand's most gifted authors" -- John Dunmore, The Listener."Druett's astute portrait vitally contributes to annals of exploration and cultural contact" --Gilbert Taylor, Booklist, reviewing the U.S. edition of Tupaia.