July 8 1816: Fourth Day on the Raft: Cannibalism!

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“When dawn broke on the fourth day, they found ten or twelve more dead bodies scattered about the raft. It was an unsettling awakening for the survivors, who realized that they too must soon meet the same fate. Slowly, they consigned the bodies to the deep, saving only one, who, as Savigny and Corréard put it, would ‘nourish those who, only a short while before, had clasped his hands in friendship’.

Pangs of hunger plagued those who had not yet succumbed to the ready supply of human flesh and, towards evening on the fourth day, when a shoal of tiny flying fish landed on the raft, those with sufficient energy trapped a huge quantity, which they gutted and placed in an empty barrel. Somewhat bucked by their sudden good fortune, they managed to rig up a makeshift oven and cook the catch, which they immediately devoured. The fish were tiny and ultimately unsatisfying, so some took advantage of the fire to grill human flesh, rendering it less odious. It was at this point on the fourth day that Savigny and Corréard and the other leaders first tasted one of their late companions.

From then on, they were forced to continue their cannibal diet, but it was never again possible to cook the flesh because there was nothing left on board the raft with which to start a fire. Instead, they decided to cut the flesh into slices and hang it up on the stays to dry, making its eventual consumption a less nauseating prospect. Satisfied by their meal and exhausted, everyone attempted to fall asleep, gingerly trying not to rub or pummel their ulcerated wounds.

Hardly had their immense fatigue overcome their chafing pain than another riot broke out. According to Savigny and Corréard, some Spanish, black and Italian soldiers attacked the leaders in an attempt to finish them off, rabid for Lieutenant Anglas de Praviel, whom they could not believe was not on board. They started to scale the mast, intent on capturing some money that had been hung on high to keep it safe for when the raft was washed ashore. Again there was butchery. Again the battle-worn sutler was flung overboard and again she was recovered. At length, the trouble-makers were overthrown, stabbed to death and discarded, leaving – out of the original 147 souls that had been crushed aboard the raft – a group of just thirty survivors.”

 extract from Medusa: The Shipwreck, The Scandal, The Masterpiece by Miles Jonathan

 

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