This survivor’s tale of an 1836 shipwreck is utterly gruesome and not for the faint of heart. John Palmer, desiring to “see the world,” embarked on the Francis Spaight for Limerick, Ireland. Unfortunately, three days into the journey, the vessel met with a severe gale and capsized. Once the ship righted, the survivors cut away her masts and remained on board the wreck for 19 days before being rescued. During those 19 days they were “driven to the most awful extremities,” which is a rather nice way of saying that, being without food and water, they engaged in cannibalism. They first killed and ate a young, emaciated boy apprenticed to the captain. In his account, Palmer writes that his blood still “chills at the bare recollection of the heart-rending scene that ensued, when the fate of this poor unfortunate lad was made known to him.” The engraving above depicts the youngster’s hands being eaten by his fellow shipmates. Others met with the same fate, although they were chosen by lottery. This short little book is full of enough horrifying and vivid detail as to leave the reader seriously hesitant about boarding any seagoing vessel.
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