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Typhoon is a classic sea yarn, possibly based upon Conrad's actual experience of seaman's life, and probably on a real incident aboard of the steamer John P. Best (according to the book by Jerry Allen on the "Sea years of Joseph Conrad", first published in 1965). The author of the mentioned book - an American journalist - did not reveal in her book any further details. Joseph Conrad himself described it as a "recent and much-discussed incident" (Author's note to the novella).
The "Typhoon" describes how Captain MacWhirr sails the SS Nan-Shan, a British-built steamer running under the Siamese flag, into a typhoon—a mature tropical cyclone of the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. Other characters include the young Jukes - most probably an alter ego of Conrad from the time he had sailed under captain John McWhirr - and Solomon Rout, the chief engineer. The novella classically evokes the seafaring life at the turn of the century. While Macwhirr, who, according to Conrad, "never walked on this Earth" - is emotionally estranged from his family and crew, and though he refuses to consider an alternative course to skirt the typhoon, his indomitable will in the face of a superior natural force elicits grudging admiration.