Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was born in Ukraine in
His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when
he was a child, after the Tsar had exiled them for their
uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, took care of him for the next
In May 1873, the
young Jozef leaves for a three-months-long stay in northern
Italy. This is his first view of the sea, and the beginning
of a passion.
In 1874, after his uncle Thaddeus
had finally conceded to his nephew's desire to sail, Conrad
went to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant
His first service, as an
apprentice on the Mont-Blanc, brings him to La Martinique.
From schooner to schooner, Conrad acquires finally (with
three other men) the Tremolino which carries arms illegally
to the supporters of Don Carlos, the Spanish pretender, and
after attempting to suicide by shooting himself through the
chest, he joins a British ship in 1879.
Second mate on the Narcissus, in
1884 he sails to Bombay. Back to England in 1886, he obtains
the British citizenship together with a Master's certificate
of the British Merchant Service.
then his first work, "The Black Mate," sails to Singapore,
Borneo, Bangkok, and takes his first command on the Otago
(Bangkok -Sydney -Mauritius- Port Adelaide), an experience
described in The Shadow-Line, Victory, "The Secret Sharer,"
"A Smile of Fortune," ,"Lord Jim" and other works.