Manage episode 285859996 series 2659594
In our final episode of Season 2, Alix and Carmella offer a quick-fire selection of stories on the custom of the sea.
With thanks to Emily for transcription help.
Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.
Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.
Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.
Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.
- Boger, J. (1805). ‘Plympton, July 4, 1805’, London Gazette, 6 July, p. 869. Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15821/page/869
- Boréale 138. (2019). Radio-Canada, 31 October. Available at: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/boreale-138/segments/chronique/140347/bateau-naufrage-anticosti-granicus-cannibalisme-cote-nord
- Bossé, G.R. (2003). The macabre discovery of the wreck of The bark Granicus, on the Island of Anticosti, during the winter and spring of 1828-1829. Available at: http://www.geocities.ws/grbosse.geo/granicus/granicus.html
- ‘Charlotte de Berry’. (2021). Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_de_Berry
- Chronicles of the Sea. (1838). ‘Loss of H.M.S. Nautilus’, Chronicles of the Sea, 13 October, pp. 1-6. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gwUHAAAAQAAJ&dq=HMS%20Nauticus%201807&pg=PA369#v=onepage&q=HMS%20Nautilus%201807&f=false
- Coolopolis Montreal. (2013). ‘Cannibalism in Quebec’, Coolopolis, 6 May. Available at: http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/2013/05/cannibalism-in-quebec.html
- Drew, C. and D. Stout. (2000). ‘Survivors Tell of Submarine Horrors’, New York Times, 17 August. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/17/world/survivors-tell-of-submarine-horrors.html
- Foxe, E. (2004). Charlotte de Berry. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20050112085737/http://www.bonaventure.org.uk/ed/deberry.htm
- Foxe, E. (2004). Charlotte de Berry – 1836. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20050124113946/http://www.bonaventure.org.uk/ed/lloydscdb.htm
- Golden Age of Piracy. (n.d.). Charlotte de Berry. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170903101143/http://www.goldenageofpiracy.org/buccaneers/charlotte-de-berry.php
- Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. (1839). Report from Select Committee on Shipwrecks of Timber Ships. London: House of Commons. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=66kxAQAAMAAJ&dq=%22elizabeth%20rashleigh%22&pg=PA61#v=onepage&q=%22elizabeth%20rashleigh%22&f=false
- John Bull. (1835). ‘Shocking Sufferings’, John Bull, 25(737). Available at: https://www.lastchancetoread.com/docs/1835-01-25-john-bull.aspx
- Lettens, J. (2008). ‘HMS Nautilus (+1807)’, Wrecksite, 19 January. Available at: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?17256
- Lighthousefriends.com. (n.d.). Cap de la Table Lighthouse. Available at: https://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1617
- Lindridge, J. (1846). ‘Loss of H.M.S. Nautilus, Captain Palmer, January 5, 1807’ in Tales of Shipwrecks and Adventures at Sea. London: William Mark Clark, pp. 217-220. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rTFFAAAAYAAJ&dq=HMS%20Nauticus%201807&pg=PA217#v=snippet&q=HMS%20Nautilus%201807&f=false
- Nadeau, J. (2019). ‘Un cas de cannibalisme’, Le Devoir, 28 October. Available at: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/565735/un-cas-de-cannibalisme
- Nikki. (2017). ‘Charlotte De Berry’, Pirate’s Quest, 17 March. Available at: https://www.piratesquest.co.uk/charlotte-de-berry/
- O’Neill, J. (2016). ‘Stove Boats, Shipwrecks, and Cannibalism: The Perils of Westport Whaling Voyages’, Westport Historical Society, 29 November. Available at: https://wpthistory.org/2016/11/stove-boats-shipwrecks-and-cannibalism-the-perils-of-westport-whaling-voyages/
- Rarick, E. (2008). Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Ricketts, B. (2014). ‘ANTICOSTI Island… A Writer’s Dream’, Mysteries of Canada, 30 October. Available at: https://mysteriesofcanada.com/quebec/anticosti-island/
- Sailor’s Magazine. (1849). ‘Dreadful Suffering at Sea’, Sailor’s Magazine, 22(4), pp. 101-102. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NtQZAAAAYAAJ&lpg=RA4-PA101&dq=%22janet%22%20%22Hosmer%22%20%221849%22&pg=RA1-PA101#v=onepage&q=%22janet%22%20%22Hosmer%22%20%221849%22&f=false
- Simpson, B. (2003). Cannibalism and Common Law. London: A&C Black.
- Stone, G. (2008). ‘Cannibalism? A Difference of Opinion’, Westport Historical Society, 26 April. Available at: https://wpthistory.org/2008/04/cannibalism_a_d/
- Stone, G. (2008). ‘Janet: the captain’s account’, Westport Historical Society, 26 April. Available at: https://wpthistory.org/2008/04/janet_the_capta/
- Terrific Record. (1849). ‘Perils of the sea’, The Terrific Record, 45, pp. 714-715. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=g_oEAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA714&dq=%22janet%22%20%22Hosmer%22%20%221849%22&pg=PA714#v=onepage&q=%22janet%22%20%22Hosmer%22%20%22&f=false
- The 1805 Club. (n.d.). Commander John Sykes. Available at: https://www.thetrafalgarway.org/john-sykes
- Vanner, A. (2020). ‘Hell and high water: HMS Nautilus, 1807’, The Dawlish Chronicles, 21 February. Available at: https://dawlishchronicles.com/2020/02/21/hell-and-high-water-hms-nautilus-1807/
- Wheeler, R. (2006). Palmer’s Pilgrimage. Oxford: Peter Lang.
- Yolen, J. (2010). ‘Charlotte de Berry’ in Sea Queens. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, pp. 55-58.
- Zajonc, T. (2014). ‘1807 – Nautilus Sloop’, Expedition Writer, 23 July. Available at: http://expeditionwriter.com/1807-nautilus-sloop/
Alix: Have you ever been really, really hungry?
Carmella: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.
A: I’m Alix.
C: I’m Carmella.
A: And now let’s tuck into the gruesome history of this ultimate taboo…
[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]
C: Welcome to Episode Thirteen. It’s time for some fun on boats!
[Intro music continues]
C: Alix – shall we have some fun on boats?
A: I love some fun on boats.
C: For our final episode of the season, we’re going to have a nautical buffet of maritime disaster and both of us will be telling you some fun boat stories.
A: Disclaimer: the fun will be had by us, not by anyone involved in said stories.
C: Also many of the boats are actually ships, I know that Alix will tell me off for that, so let’s just get that out of the way.
A: Our first story today is the story of the Nautilus. After convincing Carmella that the Nautilus is in fact a real ship, and not just the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea…
C: I’m still not convinced, but, y’know, I’m gonna let you go ahead.
A: …I thought I’d tell the story of perhaps the first maritime survival cannibalism case of the 19th century.
C: What a distinction to have.
A: I’m very on-brand. Shoutout to Cannibalism and Common Law – it’s not a case if you don’t feature it.
A: I did look up whether there’d ever been a survival cannibalism case on a submarine. The closest I’ve found was a discussion of 2014 disaster film Black Sea and a review of Finding Nemo.
C: [Laughs] Wow, that film was different than I remembered!
A: So from a practical point of view, I guess we’ve got no way of ever knowing if there’s been a submerged case of survival cannibalism.
A: So who knows what’s been going on inside.
C: You can’t be going in looking for bite marks.
A: It’s very inappropriate.
C: We’re never inappropriate on this podcast.
A: Before we get to the good part – the meat of the issue, as it were…
A: Let’s set the scene for the Nautilus.
C: I like the implication that all of this is gonna be bad.
C: We know why you’re here, but you have to suffer first.
A: I’m going to tell you what a sloop of war is.
C: [Laughs] Okay, Victor Hugo, come on!
A: [Laughing] [In a Victor Hugo-esque voice] “While it does not relate to our present tale…”
A: So Nautilus is a sloop of war, and I suppose the time has come to explain what a ‘man-of-war’ is, what a ship’s rating is, and a ‘ship of the line.’
C: I have to say that I feel there’s no better time to do that.
A: I have been skirting around the issue for two seasons now.
A: So there will be some cannibalism, but first: maritime history lesson. You know what you were getting yourselves into when you pressed play! A ‘man-of-war’ is quite easy to explain: it’s Royal Navy talk for ‘big ship designed to do a war.’ Then we get into the specifics, which are ships of the line. Navy tactics at this time, think Nelson and Hornblower, etc., involve line of battle naval tactics, where the ships are, guess what…
C: Are they in a line?
A: They’re in a line and they’re shooting at each other.
C: With cannons.
A: With cannons. A ship’s rating is based on how many decks and cannons they have, aka. a first-rate ship of the line has over a hundred cannons. HMS Victory is a first-rate ship of the line because she’s big, has got a lot of cannons, and lines up to shoot those cannons.
C: [In understanding] Cool.
A: A fourth-rate would have between 40-60 guns, and so on. And then we get to little baby Nautilus, who is so small, she doesn’t have a proper rating.
A: And is just called a sloop of war.
A: From her rigging she appears to have been a brig sloop, but I’m gonna stop now.
C: [Laughs] Thank you!
A: But she did only have 18 cannons, because she a little baaaby!
C: Aw, baby boat!… [Corrects herself] …Ship.
A: Thank you. A crew of 122 men in 1807, but still, baby. Nautilus does what all good British ships are doing in the early years of the 19th century, after she’s built in 1804…
C: Shoots the French?
A: She’s annoying Europe!
A: In fact, in the July of 1805, it’s reported in the London Gazette that she’s captured a Spanish vessel, and that the officers and crew will receive their respective portions of the specie found aboard said ship. And guess that the ship was called?
C: ….Um…big ship full of gold…?
A: A Spanish ship.
C: [Laughing] Pedro?
A: It was called the Carmella!
C: [in delighted disbelief] No!
A: It’s the only reason I included that anecdote.
C: Ahh, yay! Aw, that’s so nice! My name’s Italian though, why are they going around naming ships Italian names? There, now whenever I get asked what my favourite ship is, I’ll tell you that it’s an early 19th century Spanish vessel, the Carmella. Cool, cool, good.
A: I like the Truelove.
C: Aw, that’s a nice one.
A: She’s a whaler.
C: I like the Prince of Wales whaler…we’re getting off topic.
A: Anyway. The Nautilus takes part in another little battle later that year, a little skirmish called, [pretending to forget the name] err…Trafalgar? But while she helps to win the battle, she ultimately loses the race to bring news of the British victory and the death of Nelson back to London. She’s beaten in the race by another of my favourite little ships: HMS Pickle.
C: [Laughs] That’s fantastic.
A: My favourite bad anecdote is that it’s always disappointing that it wasn’t HMS Pickle that brought Nelson’s body back to England…
C: They didn’t Pickle him.
A: They didn’t Pickle him. Well they did, but it was not on…HMS Pickle…
A: Anyway. So that’s the scene. And now, January 1807. Nautilus and her captain Edward Palmer have been sent from where she’s been on reconnaissance in the Dardanelles, for once we’re in the warm waters of the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. Now Palmer is only 26, so he’s really making me feel like I’ve not achieved enough by my late twenties. Oh well, at least I haven’t eaten a person. Or crashed a ship.
C: There’s still time.
A: Palmer was sent with urgent dispatches back to England, I presume for the Admiralty. In what, certainly for this podcast, appears to be an unusual display of common sense, the Nautilus has a local Greek pilot guiding them through the Aegean Islands.
C: Ah, sensible.
A: After two days at sea he “relinquished his charge” and was “declaring his ignorance of the further bearings.”
C: That’s fair, you only know the area you sail in, right?
A: I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that hours later, in the midst of a dramatic storm, a flash of lightning revealed what was taken to be an island soon approaching.
C: [Distrusting] Hmmm…
A: So her course was adjusted and sailing her new route… She ploughed directly into a rock.
C: [Laughs] Oops!
A: “Immediately the vessel struck with the most tremendous crash. Such was the violence of the shock, that people were thrown from their beds, and, on coming upon deck, were obligated to cling to the cordage. All was now confusion and alarm; the crew hurried on deck, which they had scarce time to do when the ladders below gave way, and indeed left many persons struggling in the water”.
A: It’s not going well. Palmer burns all of his private papers while the ship is being battered—
C: Jesus! What was he… What did he have in his private papers? Like, ‘Better delete my search history right now!’ My God!
A: [Laughing] See this is why I have to say that I assume dispatches were for the Admiralty, ‘cos he fucking burns it all!
C: Just some naughty letters he doesn’t want getting out.
A: [Laughing] His Bills and Boons script.
[ Carmella laughs]
A: The crew end up having to climb the rigging to avoid being swept off the ship. The lightning has stopped, so it’s pitch black, no-one can see, and they have to wait until dawn to try and get off the ship into safety. Although ‘safety’ is a loose term for the random rock that they’ve ploughed into.
A: In fact, the only way they can get there is to hope that the main mast falls in the right direction.
C: [Laughs] Leaving a lot to fate.
A: Luckily, “about half an hour before daybreak”, the main mast does give way. “Providentially falling towards the rock, and by means of it they were enabled to gain the land.”
C: I mean, when you fell a tree, the way you cut it decides the direction in which it falls. It feels like they didn’t have to leave it to chance, they could have intervened.
A: They were getting the shit beat out of them by the sea.
C: Yeah, that’s true.
A: And I don’t think… It doesn’t read that it was: ‘We’re going to cut down the main mast.’ It read as ‘Fuck, the main mast is gonna fall down.’
A: ‘I hope it goes this way.’
C: Yeah, okay.
A: All but one of Nautilus’ small boats have been destroyed by the sea or smashed against the rocks. But there’s one whaleboat…of course it’s a whaleboat—
A: So the only hope for all the survivors is Officer George Smith. He and ten other men have taken to the sea in the whaleboat to try and get help.
C: Good luck, George and friends.
A: The rock that the majority of survivors are on… Not great. Or in fact, not even OK.
C: [Laughs] Is it just, like, a rock in the middle of the sea?
A: It is just a rock in the middle of the sea. Luckily, it is connected to a slightly larger rock in the middle of the sea…
C: Oh, phew.
A: …So they have to clamber to that one, cutting up the soles of their hands and feet, great gashes up and down their arms and legs…
A: Not fun. “Daylight beginning to appear, disclosed the horrors by which those unfortunate men were surrounded. The sea was covered with the wreck of their ill-fated ship; many of their unhappy comrades were seen floating away on spars and timbers; and the dead and dying were mingled together without a possibility of the survivors according assistance to any that might be rescued. Two short hours had been productive of all this misery, the ship destroyed and her crew reduced to a situation of despair.”
C: I would call that a situation of despair indeed.
A: Their new home was roughly the size of a tennis court.
C: [Outraged] Do I look like I know how big a tennis court is?
A: I had to go through so many different options on Comparethesizeofthis.com.
A: It’s 400 yards by 200 yards.
C: I mean, that means more to me than a tennis court does!
A: [Laughs] Not overly pleasant for the roughly 100 men who’ve made their way to the rock, but they have managed to light a fire. The second day: the whaleboat has returned.
A: After managing to reach an empty island, Smith sailed back to the survivors. Allegedly Palmer refused to board the boat. “No, Smith, save your unfortunate shipmates, never mind me.”
C: Oh, hero.
A: So Smith takes the Greek pilot – which is probably the wisest move…
C: Yeah, yep.
A: And sets sail again, this time to try and find rescue. But there’s a fresh storm, there’s no shelter, and the fire is extinguished.
C: What fire? Oh, on the rock?
C: My brain was on the boat, I was like: ‘The boat’s on fire’?
C: Okay. Oh, poor things. That’s miserable.
A: Yeah, it’s not great. Especially because the only way to prevent themselves being swept out to sea, is that they basically tie a rope around the rock, and then tie themselves to it.
C: Cool cool cool.
A: Now, this is quite a nice turn of phrase for: ‘It’s so depressing that the men are dying just for something to do’…“By day three, the hardships by which the crew had already suffered were sufficient to terminate existence.”
C: [Laughs] They were sufficient.
A: Those who survived thus far have been battered and bruised and dashed against the rocks. Others are starting to feel the effects of the lack of food and drink; men are suffering from cold throughout the night, and people are starting to die, their bodies just lying where they fall.
C: Still tied to the rock, I assume?
A: Hopefully, they sort of fall through the rope?
A: Hopes are raised and then dashed the next day when a ship is sighted. “The joy which this occasioned may be easily conceived, for nothing short of immediate relief was anticipated.”
C: I don’t like– I don’t like the word ‘anticipated.’
A: Even though the men were wrecked, they started trying to make rafts out of driftwood, but they were beaten back by the waves. But no matter, a ship has spotted them, has sent out a small boat to sail by the rock! The would-be rescuer, “dressed in the European fashion”…
C: [Laughing] What does that mean? He’s from Europe?
A: Pretty much, yeah.
A: “Who after having gazed at them a few minutes […] waved his hat and then rowed off”.
C: [Laughs] Alright, bye!
A: What a bastard.
C: So rude!
A: For followers of the Casting Lots Twitter, there was a tweet back in October, about Word deciding that a line of my script was ‘inappropriate and may cause offence.’ I maintain that whoever this man was, was in fact, a bastard.
A: He can fight me if he’s offended.
A: Even worse, this mystery ship just picks up bits of their wreckage before sailing off.
C: Oh wow! Vulture, there!
A: No-one has worked out who this ship was.
C: [Laughing] You wouldn’t admit to it, would you?
A: [In amused disbelief] Fucking hell… For perhaps obvious reasons, this rather disheartens the survivors. All of the usual things start occurring: despair, falling into madness, grief, seawater drinking, death. That night however, the whaleboat returns with news that “they should be taken off the rock by a fishing-vessel in the morning.”
C: [Disbelieving] Right, right, yeah.
A: It doesn’t do much for their spirits. By the fourth day, when (quote) “Neither the whaleboat nor the promised vessel appeared to mitigate the sufferings of the famished men who were now glaring with greedy eyes upon the lifeless bodies of their shipmates as the only way of relieving the cravings of inordinate hunger. As the day advanced, famine overcame their natural repugnance to this loathsome diet.”
C: Mmhmm. Yeah, that’s, uh…That’s a very typical language, isn’t it?
A: It is, but what I will say is four days is pretty quick.
A: Even by our standards!
C: [Laughing] I mean, you would be hungry, I guess.
A: While “offering prayer to heaven for forgiveness of the sinful act, they selected a young man who had died the preceding night, and ventured to appease their hunger with human flesh” after all, they were (quote) “not ignorant of the means whereby other unfortunate mariners in the like situation had protracted life.”
C: [Laughs] That’s wordy. Well done.
A: Everyone’s sad, hungry, and stuck on a rock.
C: And they all have heard of cannibalism before.
A: Exactly. And those who aren’t are dead and being eaten.
A: All in all, no-one’s having a nice time on this little island retreat. So they come up with a plan to build a raft to escape.
C: Yep. The rafts, it’s always the rafts.
A: Boon Island, anyone?
A: Anyway, this doesn’t work. The raft, a product of hours of work, is dashed to pieces in moments.
C: [Disappointed] Aww.
A: A second raft is built, but this is more of a suicidal last hurrah than anything else, as immediately the men “launched out into the sea” aboard this tiny, hastily made lashed bits of wood, and were “carried away by unknown currents and vanished forever from sight.”
C: Okay, I’m going to assume they probably just drowned.
A: I think it’s quite likely. However, for an inhospitable island, this whaleboat seems able to just pop back and forth really quickly.
C: [Laughs] It’s actually just really near to mainland Greece, or whatever.
A: Because it’s day five, and they’re back again.
C: It’s like they’re not even making a real effort, right?
A: Now they’re telling the survivors that the local fishermen were too concerned about the weather to rescue them, but they might come tomorrow. In a desperate moment about a dozen men attempt to swim from the rock to the boat – surprisingly only one man drowns.
C: [Encouraging] Okay.
A: Two make it to the whaler and the rest climb back onto the rock.
A: Finally, on the sixth day, four Greek fishing boats make it to the rock.
C: It’s like London buses, isn’t it?
A: You wait forever for one, and then four come along at once.
C: [Laughs] And you’ve eaten the people you’re waiting with.
A: [Laughs] They’ve not only brought rescue, but also water. “It tasted more delicious than the finest wines”, allegedly. I’ve not been able to work out if the whaleboat comes back again, but considering that George Smith has done this trip so many times already, I feel like he’d see it out to the end.
A: “Of one hundred and twenty-two persons on board the Nautilus when she struck, fifty eight had perished. Eighteen were drowned, it was supposed, at the moment of the catastrophe, and one in attempting to reach the boat; five were lost on the small raft, and thirty-four died of famine. […] Six days had been passed on the rock, nor had the people, during that time, received any assistance, excepting from the human flesh of which they had participated.”
C: Is that assistance? I guess it assisted them?
A: Among the dead is Captain Palmer, whether or not he was eaten remains unknown. Also unknown is what was in those urgent dispatches.
C: [Laughs] I don’t wanna know.
A: The cannibalism seems quite secondary to the story, even though it only takes them four days to decide that ‘well, we’ve just gotta eat a person!’ I suppose it’s only 1807, we haven’t yet really got into the moral panic of the high Victorian era.
C: Good point. They didn’t care about whether they ate people at that point in time.
A: It’s like, ‘well, other people have done it, we’re on this rock, we might as well get it over with. Shall we start now?’
C: [Laughs] Moving a bit later in time, I have another shipwreck that goes… cannibalistic.
A: What I love to hear.
C: Now Alix, are you ready for a murder mystery?
A: [Enthusiastically] Yes! Yes I am!
C: Now I worry that I’ve excited you too much, because it’s not much of a mystery. But anyway…
A: [Laughs] Is it really obvious whodunnit?
C: [Laughs] On the 8 May 1829, a sealing schooner, the Victory, under Captain Basile Giasson, landed on Anticosti Island, which is in the Gulf of St Lawrence, in the province of Quebec, in case anyone is bad at geography, like me.
A: I’m feeling this is isn’t going to be particularly… victorious.
C: Uhh well, they have decided to land here – they were gonna land here anyway, but they’ve noticed a boat hauled up onto the beach, and they think they’re going to have a little looksee, see what’s going on, y’know, check in, check everything’s going okay…
A: ‘I see you’ve left your boat here, do you have a permit…?’
C: Yeah, exactly. Anticosti Island wasn’t really inhabited at that time, it was visited regularly enough, mostly by, y’know, sailors stopping by, and getting wrecked in the area, it was a big wreck area. It’s reasonable to assume that you see a boat, you might wanna help out.
A: You say reasonable. In the story we just heard…
A: Are you sure they didn’t just rock up to wave, and be like: ‘Oh you alright guys? Oh, I can’t be bothered to rescue you, off you go…’
C: Potentially. Four men leave the schooner, and they visit a little hut at Godin’s post. Godin’s post is one of a number of emergency posts that were set up in this general area in 1810. They’ve got provisions, there’s a person there who lives there year-round, so that if there’s a shipwreck, there are signs all along the coast saying ‘go this way,’ and the people who are in the shipwreck can go along to the post, get supplies, find a real person who can help them out. Nice idea.
A: Nice idea. But there’s isolation, and then there’s isolation. Your job is to live alone in a tiny hut, on the off-chance that someone crashes a ship, then you might get to talk to a human being.
C: I mean, you’ve just described the concept of a lighthouse, Alix.
C: Similar thing.
A: You’re normally allowed more than one person in a lighthouse.
C: Well, there was more than one person: there was Godin and his wife. And they lived there until the previous year when his wife died and Godin returned to the mainland, because, y’know, he was sad.
A: That’s fair. I hope they had a really good marriage.
A: Because if there’s anything worse than being stuck in total isolation on your own… It’s being stuck in total isolation with someone you can’t stand.
C: I mean, let’s not do the whole ‘this married couple hate each other’ act, maybe they really got along well.
A: Well, seeing that he was really sad after she died…
C: Yeah, yeah. So he went back to the mainland. And in a typical story of government cuts, The Powers That Be decided it was a bit pricey to replace him… So they wouldn’t.
A: Sounds familiar.
C: Fast forward to the current time of May 1829. The men from the Victory visit the hut at Godin’s post, and inside they discover human remains of around 12 to 13 individuals, ranging from clean bones to putrefying flesh. I say 12 to 13 because it’s hard to figure out where one body starts and the other one ends.
C: The bodies show signs of murder, dismemberment, and cannibalism. Bloodstains on the ceiling suggest a violent struggle…
C: …There’s evidence of cooked flesh in the stove. In a little cabin next door, they find one final body, a man later identified by the name of Harrington, asleep…well, dead—
C: Dead having been asleep, in a hammock, completely untouched. So I mean I said a murder mystery: presumably we’ve found the murderer, right?
A: Yeah, I think I might be able to work out whodunnit.
C: In another hut, they find a sort of larder. Giasson reports, “On opening the door, we saw piles of remains, hearts, offal and guts, and hanging from the ceiling, six disembowelled corpses, beheaded and with their arms and legs removed at the elbow and knee joints, and a wooden bar passed through the thighs.”
C: In all, around 15 to 25 bodies are found in the area – I know that’s not a very specific number, every source I looked at had a different number – including women and children. So, murder mystery. I guess mystery of what happened for it to go so badly wrong, right?
A: Yeah, we’ve worked out the murder bit…
C: Giasson and his men find a ship’s log, which identifies the dead as coming from the Granicus. The Granicus had set sail from Quebec City on 29 October 1828, bound for Cork in Ireland, with a cargo of timber.
A: [Tuts] It’s always the timber ships.
C: It was under the direction of Captain Robert Martian, it had a crew of around 19, and carried three children and two women as passengers. In November they were grounded on Anticosti Island by a storm, further away from Godin’s hut. It was actually between two main hut points. The crew and passengers made it to shore – all of them, allegedly. They built shelters, they survived through a harsh winter, living on what they’d salvaged from the ship. I mean, some of them passed away, obviously, but, y’know, there were survivors.
A: They’ve got food from the ship, there’s probably some provisions still in the hut… Not a lot, I’d imagine, after…
C: They’re not near the hut yet.
A: Oh, they’re not near the hut yet?
A: They’re living off their own resources.
C: Yeah, for a whole winter.
A: See, I’m… Because you started with the end, I’m like ‘I’m impressed’… No, no, it’s gonna get nasty.
C: Yeah, this is… I’m taking the story backwards here. Eventually their food runs out, but they know about this emergency post – Godin’s hut. There are literally signs all up the coast saying ‘go this way for the hut’.
A: That does raise the question why they didn’t go to the hut.
C: I guess they had enough food at first? [Laughs] It’s a bit far to walk, but they take the ship’s longboat, and they sail it round to the post. However, they find it abandoned. Godin’s not there, it hasn’t been restocked with supplies. GOVERNMENT CUTS.
A: Referencing no governments.
C: [Laughs] So the men of the Victory know all of this information, because in the ship’s log it has entries leading up to 28 April. So the Victory men have landed on the island on 8 May.
A: [Realisation] Oh.
C: Which means that any final deaths that have happened, including the presuming last man standing, Harrington, in the hammock, have happened in just that short period of time. Just nine days.
A: [Sad realisation] Oh.
C: They find an engraving reading “S. M. T. H. I. F. S., March 27 & 28”. So these appear to be the initials of people identified as having been aboard the Granicus, including H for Harrington. They know that S belongs to a Mrs Stirling, who’s identified by her ring, so the assumption is that around March 27 and 28, those were the people who were remaining alive.
A: [Sad realisation] Oh.
C: And clearly what’s happened is people have been dying, have been murdered, have been eaten…
A: Have been put in a human larder…
C: Have been cooked in pots…there are some stories that say there are heads roasting in the oven…I feel like that one’s probably made up…
A: It’s always the heads, there’s something about… We know that historically people get rid of heads.
C: Yes. I mean, a lot of the bodies have been beheaded, which would make more sense for if you want to get rid of it. There are things found around: clothing, caches of items that were on the passengers had been buried outside the hut… But what remains is the ultimate mystery of: what happened for it to go so badly wrong?
A: You’re not going to answer that, are you?
C: I’m not, no-one knows the answer! Sorry, that’s the end of the story. It is a Québécois mystery.
A: That is intense.
C: Just imagine…
[Alix makes a noise of revulsion]
C: Being the guys to find that.
A: Like ‘Ooh, there’s a boat here, let’s go have a look in that hut’. They are never looking in a hut ever again.
C: Do you have a more cheerful story?
A: A more cheerful cannibalism story??
C: What’s your next one?
A: [Laughing] Let’s take a look. I may not have a more cheerful story, but I do have a bit of resolution.
C: Ah, good, we know what happens.
A: Resolution, but also… drama.
A: When we were planning this episode, it was going to be two stories each. And then back in July, when lockdown got pretty intense here in the UK, I found a tweet by the Bathwick St Mary’s Churchyard Friends, and it had a newspaper clipping from 1849, and it was a tweet asking about whether casting lots was legit. Not, like, whether they could do it, obviously – things weren’t that bad here in the UK…
A: But whether in a Victorian newspaper, it meant what they thought it did.
C: Yes, probably.
A: That was my conclusion, but also, I was desperate and bored and did so much research for this random churchyard.
C: [Laughs] Shoutout!
A: So we’re getting the story now. That story turned out to be the case of the Janet.
C: Ooh, good name. A ship?
A: A ship.
A: A whaler—
A: From the 1840s.
A: You know I love me a whaleship story.
C: You’ve never mentioned.
A: According to the Sailor’s Magazine of 1849 the case of the Janet is “almost without parallel in the annals of the whale fishery.” Now… I’m not sure how much I believe that. [Cough] Essex [Cough].
C: [Laughs] They said almost without parallel. With the exception of one parallel.
A: [Laughs] Let’s go a-whaling.
A: There are two sources for this case. They have wildly different accounts of what happens.
C: Always good. Love that in our stories.
A: Accident, betrayal, survival, death… So it’s, um, a bit hard to get a picture of exactly what happened. When I said there was a resolution, there is. In fact, there are two.
C: Ha-hey! It’s a choose-your-own adventure!
A: I’ve got a resolution for my story and a resolution for yours!
A: In the time-honoured tradition of the sea, I’m going to err towards the Captain’s account. It’s 23 June 1849 and we’re off the coast of Peru.
A: Surprise surprise, some sperm whales have been spotted.
C: It happens.
A: So it’s time to leave the Janet and get in the whaleboats. There are six men in Captain Hosmer’s boat: himself, Francis Hawkins, Edward Charlez – that’s Charles with a Z…
C: Ooh, fancy.
A: Joseph Cortez, Daniel Thompson and James Fairman. The second account recalls an incident where the captain’s boat takes on board half of the second mate’s crew, bringing the total up to ten. Don’t worry about keeping track of these numbers, they go all over the place later on.
C: [Laughs] I thought you were just going to say They all die anyway’, so…!
A: We’ll see. Captain Hosmer’s boat succeeds in lancing a whale. In fact, the harpoon is “hurled by the Captain’s hand.” However, when attempting to tow the carcass back to ship, they accidentally capsize their own boat.
C: It happens.
A: I’m not sure how.
A: It features in the Captain’s account and the blame is placed with Hawkins as the third mate due to some “inadvertence” which capsizes the boat. I do not know what that is.
C: Yeah, uh… Anything really.
A: Everyone survives and manages to right the boat and get back onboard.
C: Does the whale survive?
A: The whale is already dead.
C: Yeah, I was just… Whales are people too. [Silence, then laughs] Okay, never mind.
A: They’ve lost the paddles, the compass and all the navigational equipment.
C: [Sarcastically] Good, that’s nice, that’s useful.
A: Also, the boat’s full of water.
A: The Captain and his men attempt to signal their distress to the Janet, or to the nearby whaleboats. ‘Nearby’ is a relative term, it was common to have miles between active boats during whale hunts, and these hunts take hours.
C: [In understanding] Yeah, yeah.
A: In fact, they do manage to spot some of their fellow whalers but, “to his surprise and horror, when within about one mile of him they kept off on another course until sundown”.
C: Oh, I see where the ‘betrayal’ is coming in.
A: So the Captain and his men are just left bobbing about in the water. It’s unclear if they actually have oars left or if they just have a rudimentary sail, but either way, they decide to cut away the whale.
C: Um, I’m thinking, ‘sensible initial decision, becomes an issue later when you’re really hungry.’
A: Yeaaah. Allegedly, Captain Hosmer believes they might be able to catch up to the Janet. They can’t. They are able to see her briefly, but despite “every expedient […] resorted to […] attract the attention of those on board the barque,” it was “but in vain.”
A: To make matters worse, the boat is still more under water than above it.
C: Which is not what you want from a boat.
A: No. They’ve been attempting to bail out for 48 hours.
C: Ooh, that’s dedication.
A: They eventually manage to rid the boat of all excess water on the inside…
C: Any water on the inside is excess water!
A: Exactly! However, they have also lost all of their whaling equipment as well.
C: Oh dear.
A: And two members of the crew.
C: Oh dear!
A: It’s only been two days, and they’ve already started to go a bit funny with hunger and thirst.
C: I guess they’ve exerted themselves with the whale hunt. Probably pretty exhausted.
A: Exactly. And they’ve been bailing continuously for 48 hours.
A: There’s a small beaker of water in the boat, which Hosmer immediately charged himself with “the care of this desperately coveted beverage.”
C: [Laughs] I do desperately covert water as a beverage.
A: I mean, who doesn’t? If we’ve learnt anything, drink fresh water.
C: Yep. Not sea water.
A: We know it looks tempting, it’s not worth it.
C: Look, I know all of your friends are doing it. [Laughs] But that doesn’t make it cool! SAY NO.
A: It’s a thousand miles from the nearest land; they can only navigate by the North Star and the currents, and they only have a small bit of sail. They’re planning on making their way to the uninhabited Cocus Island, but they’re not really in control of their direction. Men resort to dipping themselves in the water to get relief from the heat, but – and this is one of my favourite quotes – “this doesn’t change the hunger, the hunger which had become demonical, and men glared at each other with cannibal gaze and intent.”
A: Gotta love those cannibal gays!
A: Captain Hosmer writes “nothing worthy occurred of remark until the seventh day.” No-one has had anything to eat or drink in days, and it’s not rained.
C: Well, it’s not worthy of remark, so.
A: Just boring.
A: And then, according to Alexander Starbuck – because who doesn’t like to namedrop the famous whaling families of Nantucket…
C: Yeah, Starbuck time!
A: He writes in the History of the American Whale Fishery, from its Earliest Inception to the Year 1876, “it was now agreed to cast the terrible lot.”
C: ‘The terrible’… Well, it’s kind of a namedrop, I’ll take it!
A: “To see which of their number should die that the rest might live.” It has been one whole week.
[Carmella makes a ‘fair enough’ noise]
A: According to the captain’s account “it was mutually agreed to cast lots.”
A: Proper one, that time. And “the unfortunate victim upon whom the lot fell met his fate with perfect resignation and willingness.”
C: [Disbelieving] Okay.
A: Note, with one exception, which we will come onto later, we don’t actually know which of the crew draws any of the short straws.
C: I see. Because of how confusing it is about how many people and who’s on the boat.
A: Exactly. It’s just ‘And we drew lots, oh, by the way, these are the ones who died.’ I’m like, ‘In what order?’
C: Not important.
A: In the Captain’s account, they only draw lots once and it’s decided unanimously, however this is where the changes we’re interested in come about. Because in the anonymous crewman’s account, it is a Malay crewmen whose eyes “glittered like those of a basilisk” when he proposes the drawing of lots.
C: [Uncomfortable noises] Mmm. Cool cool cool.
A: My notes here and just: ‘So I’ve found the blatant racism…’
C: Yep, it’s always there. You’ve just got to look for it, friends.
A: You don’t have to look very hard; this is a very edited version.
A: In this account, however, Hosmer is exempt from the drawing of lots because he was “their only navigator” and (quote) “the greatest sufferer.”
C: What does that mean?
A: Interesting that the captain is exempt.
C: Yeah, yeah – and that he doesn’t mention that in his own account; he leaves that one out, huh?!
A: Which is why I give slightly more credence to this particular part.
C: Yeah, yeah.
A: However, lots are drawn on multiple occasions in the anonymous narrative. “After two or three days, the same horrible ceremony was repeated, and again and again, until four of our number had succumbed.” The fifth attempt to draw lots is complicated when the Malay crewman does not “commend himself to the throne of grace…”
C: Okay, I have no idea what that means, but sure.
A: I believe it is a reference to going willingly up to heaven.
A: But all the others had ‘commended themselves to the throne of grace’…
C: I mean why are we using all these euphemisms? Like, come on!
A: If we’ve covered anything in Season 2, it’s that ‘don’t give us metaphors.’
A: ‘They ate people.’ That’s all we need.
A: But because he doesn’t want to be killed – even though it was definitely him that suggested it…
C: Totes, totes.
A: He makes “a desperate blow” at the young cabin boy’s head. The survivors have made a pact to save the young cabin boy for… reasons…
C: So he’s now exempt as well, allegedly.
A: There’s a lot going on on this boat. And then the Captain kills the Malay crewman. And then they eat him.
C: Right. I mean, that part I believe.
A: “The would-be murderer fell and was instantly killed and shared out among the survivors. Hunger had been somewhat appeased, and we killed each other, not so much for the flesh as to moisten our mouths with the blood.”
C: [Laughs] Okay!
A: Did you think I was going to say ‘fun’?
C: I really thought you were gonna say ‘fun’!
A: It was a very weird quote to read. I was like ‘Oh okay…why are you killing each other when you say you’re not hungry?’
C: But yeah, they should probably have just led with ‘We were thirsty, so we killed each other.’
A: I think they wanted a copyeditor.
A: The sixth man to die is implied to die of natural causes, and again, if this account is true, I’m inclined to believe that, because they’ve killed so many people by now—
A: What’s one more? He isn’t consumed; instead he is “made fast to a rope and trolled for two days, in hope of calling up a shark.”
C: Right, so now they’re fishing. Again, it just takes everyone a long time to get to the fishing thing, huh?
A: “No such good fortune awaited us.”
C: Similar to the whaleboats from the Essex… I know they’ve lost all the equipment, but like, your main job is to catch large sea life. That’s like, your profession.
A: You had a whale with you.
C: [Laughs] Yeah exactly, you already did it!
A: [Small, sad voice] Why did you let it go?
A: According to the anonymous crewman, there had been six deaths, attempted murder, actual murder, and a whole lot of drama. But let’s return to the Captain’s version, where there have been two deaths by natural causes, and one short straw pulled.
A: And the fourth and final man to die, dies of exhaustion. And then on day nine, a double stroke of luck. Another quote which I love: “a dolphin, leaping from aomong its finny companions—”
C: [Laughs] Adorable!
A: Directly into the boat.
C: Wow. What luck, what providence…
A: ‘Ooh, leave your finny companions and come to…’ I thought dolphins were meant to be quite intelligent?
C: I guess if you’re a dolphin and you’re used to just leaping around in the sea, you’re not expecting boats to be there. You probably– You’re used to leaping and then what you land on is more sea.
A: I suppose.
C: Not this time.
A: Not this time. He lands in a boat. A very, very hungry boat. And then it’s a rainstorm, and then they catch some birds.
C: Wow, everything’s coming up Janet.
A: Everything is coming up Janet – in fact, what’s the one thing they could really go for right now?
C: …I mean, rescue?
A: Close. But they get dry land.
A: On 13 July, they actually find themselves on the Cocus Island.
C: Where they were aiming to go!
A: Where they were aiming to go.
C: I think that may be a first in Casting Lots history!
A: ‘Boat sets out, intends to go somewhere, and gets somewhere.’
C: Yeah, wow.
A: While it is uninhabited, the men manage to catch a pig…
A: Immediately drink its blood…
A: They capture some birds and get some fresh water, and on their second day they see a boat. This boat belongs to the Leonidas, under the command of Captain Swift. Another whaler has come to their rescue.
A: The names of those who perished on board the boat, are Francis Hawkins, James Fairman, Henry Thompson, and Edward Charlez.
C: With a Z.
A: With a Z. This is by the Captain’s reckoning: of an original boat team of six, there are now two survivors. Surprise, surprise, our anonymous man has a different ending. He states that by the 35th day at sea, “only four of the original ten men remained alive.”
C: [Listening] Mmhmm?
A: “The captain, the lad, one messmate and myself.” And then after a rousing, if whispered speech from Hosmer… Let me get into parched sailor voice. [Clears throat]
C: Ooh, yes please.
A: [In said parched sailor voice] “Let us agree together like men. Let us have no more of this dreadful cannibalism. If we are to perish, it is God’s holy will, and we would submit without rebelliousness.” [Coughs]
C: [Laughing] That gave me chills. It was like he was here in the room.
A: They simply decide to stop casting lots, to stop doing a cannibalism and just wait to die.
C: When you’re down to four, I mean…yeah.
A: But also when you’re down to four, just keep going!
C: That’s another way of looking at it.
A: But anyway, as they’re waiting to die, a sail appears over the horizon and they get rescued.
C: Yay. Very different endings, though.
A: Which was it?
C: Um, hmm… I like the island one.
A: See, the Janet certainly existed, and it was certainly believed that something went awry after the captain’s boat failed to return. I think it probably is the Captain who’s telling something closer to the real truth, the anonymous account is a bit too florid…
C: [Laughs] You don’t say.
A: It’s got everything you’d want in a cannibalistic shipwreck. Betrayal, a strapping young lad – in fact, the young cabin boy is “a meek, active, intelligent boy” – it’s got tragedy, it’s got racism, it’s got hubris, it’s got recognisable elements taken from the Essex narrative…
C: Yep. [Laughs]
A: And as many instances of casting lots as you can shake a stick at. And the Captain’s account also has some quite useful information – like the names of those on board, and the name of the ship that rescued them.
A: But there are still certain elements of the anonymous account that make me think…maybe.
C: Some credence, yeah. [In what is clearly a scripted line that Alix has just indicated Carmella should read out] But Alix, how come none of the crew on the Janet or the other boats notice that their Captain had gone missing?
A: Funny you should ask. Surprise, surprise, there are varying accounts of this as well.
C: Right, okay.
A: Our anonymous source states that while in the open boat, they “had got within a mile of the bark”. (‘Boat’).
A: [Getting increasingly distressed] “When to our intense astonishment she squared away before the wind […] and rapidly disappeared from view. What could be the meaning of this astounding conduct? Why had Mr. Bennett left his captain and nine of his crew upon the friendless ocean?”
C: [Distraught] Why?
A: In fact, [with despair] “at length it became too evident that the mate had deserted us and gone off with the bark, leaving us to perish upon the broad bosom of the deep!”
C: O-ho, okay!
A: According to the First Mate James Crowell, after he returned to the Janet, “there was but one boat in sight, […] He had seen Capt. H. two hours previously fast to a whale…” Held fast, attached, whaling lingo.
C: I understood.
A: “–And went to the leeward of him, when last seen from his boat. We proceeded in the direction in which the captain’s boat had been last seen and lay to all night with all sails set, and with all our lights fixed. In the morning [we] saw nothing of the boat. We cruised three days, but unfortunately without meeting any trace of here.”
C: So… betrayal or incompetence?
A: Conspiracy, something awful… But I have a final theory.
C: Okay. The whale did it!
A: Close. The ocean’s really big.
C: You know what, I have noticed that about the ocean.
A: And whaleboats are really small.
C: They are quite small; we’ve done the maths before.
A: And it was not an uncommon fate for whaleboats lanced to a whale to be pulled down to the depths with no survivors – and that was what Cowell concluded. He expected the Captain’s boat was taken down by a foul line, and how long really are you gonna wait for a whale to resurface, that may or may not be attached to a boat with no survivors on? So, that was the story of the Janet.
C: I liked the ‘choose your own adventure’ uncertainty of that narrative. Would you like a narrative with even fewer facts in it?
A: Let’s go.
C: So, I know we’re a true history podcast – so I will say before I go into this story, that I think it’s, at the very best, heavily embellished. At worst, entirely fictional. But it’s fun, so I’m gonna tell you the story anyway.
A: Is this a Carmella Original of ‘they don’t say there’s NOT cannibalism!’
C: They do say there is cannibalism, but there’s no… Well, let’s uh, let’s have a look, shall we?
A: Douglas Mawson is watching you intently right now.
C: Hey, Douglas Mawson was a real human being who definitely existed, which is more than can be said of this story, but here we go!
A: Oh boy!
C: I’m telling it because I want to. The earliest source for this story is Edward Lloyd’s Penny Dreadful, History of the Pirates, published on 30 April 1836.
A: At least it’s not Sweeney Todd.
C: [Laughs] But it’s close! It has similarities to other popular stories of the time, some of them true, some of them fictional – so it could be an amalgam; it could be true; it could be entirely invented, you decide. It’s the story of Charlotte de Berry, a female pirate captain.
A: A female pirate cannibal captain.
C: Exactly. She was allegedly (and I’m not going to say allegedly before all of this, but just know that every sentence should start with allegedly) born in England in a seaport town – we’re not going to get the name of that town, that would be too easy – in 1636.
C: To poor “but respectable” parents. Her father was a shipowner.
C: But after some misfortunes at sea, he retired at the request of his wife to settle down with their little girl, Charlotte. Charlotte was well-educated by her father: “at the age of fourteen she was accounted, not only one of the most handsome, but intellectual young ladies the neighbourhood they resided in could boast of”. That’s a quote from, uh, Mr Lloyd.
A: The anonymous neighbourhood.
C: [Laughs] Yes. The unknown neighbourhood. She’s also hot-headed and reckless, though.
A: I can see where the pirate instinct is coming from.
C: As a youth, she was always fascinated by sailors and the sea, and it’s reported that she…
A: [Snort of laughter] That’s just young and hormonal!
C: [Laughs] It’s reported that she would dress up as a boy to be able to hang out with sailors in pubs.
A: [Knowingly disapproving] Charlotte.
A: With a fake ID!
C: Yeah! In one of these pubs, she encounters a man named Jack Jib – surely a fake name.
A: That’s the name on her fake ID.
C: He’s a veteran of the Navy.
A: Everyone was a veteran of the Navy.
C: They decide to marry in secret, against her parents’ knowledge.
A: That’s a very good first date.
C: [Laughs] I don’t know whether that was immediate.
A: ‘Your name is Jack Jib; I want that name.’
C: [Laughs] I mean, yeah, Charlotte Jib. Sure. Jack is called away, however, at the outbreak of war. Which war? Ha! No answer to that one!
A: Have we actually had a date yet?
C: She was born in 1636, and at the age of 14, began running around in these pubs.
C: But we don’t know how soon after that age she met Jack.
A: Okay. Let me have a look for a war…
C: Have a look… I mean, there were a lot of skirmishes going on at the time. [Pause where A looks online] Well, what are our options? It could be any of them.
A: We’ve a number of engagements in contention. In early 1627, there’s an undeclared war with France in the English Channel; the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, leads one of his very unsuccessful expeditions to assist the Huguenots, which is the Siege of La Rochelle; we also have the Barbary Corsairs making trouble in the Bristol Channel… There are options. It is currently believable that a man might go on a ship.
A: So far, I believe it.
C: Now, Charlotte doesn’t want to be apart from her new husband, Jack – so she pops on her boy clothes and enlists to join him on the ship. There are a lot of stories of similar things happening. Some of them seem to be real.
A: Some of them are real, you have Mary Talbot…
C: So it definitely happened – so far, so plausible. Women did pretend to be men to go on ships.
C: [laughs] Charlotte allegedly fights “no less than six engagements in this ship”. I don’t know whether that just means six individual fights, or six wars – that sounds excessive, it must mean individual fights. Then one day, dear old Jack Jib offends the lieutenant. He’s court marshalled and flogged around the feet, which–
[Alix laughs in disbelief]
C –Is very excessive and something that would only happen to, like, a real heinous criminal.
A: It’s a bit over the top.
C: He dies from the injuries within a week.
A: You would do.
C: Charlotte “inwardly vowed a deadly revenge” against the Navy. It’s very James Flint in Black Sails. [Laughs] When they return home, she procures a couple of pistols and waits on a lane at night for the lieutenant to pass by. And then she shoots him dead.
A: So she becomes a highwayman.
C: She takes his money and uses it to go to London and live as a fine lady. At a ball, she’s spotted by a Captain Wilmington, of a merchant vessel, who proposes to her. She turns him down, because she’s still in love with her departed Jack… So he kidnaps her and forces her to join him on his ship.
A: That went from 0 to 100 very quickly.
C: When they make land from water one day, Charlotte overhears Wilmington’s men talking about how much they hate him and wish they could do a mutiny. So she steps in and rallies them to act. She herself stabs Wilmington as he sleeps, and they take the ship. The men make Charlotte their captain and turn to piracy.
A: This is where I’m starting to become a little less convinced.
C: It’s becoming very… Fake. [Laughs] They prey on trading vessels on the African coast. Charlotte’s going by the name of Captain Rodolf at this point, to keep her enemies in the dark, although whenever they put into land she puts on her dresses and she’s Charlotte again. She later remarries, to the son of a wealthy Spanish planter, Armelio Gonzalez – who is only 22 at the time. [Suggestively] Armelio. I mean, he’s a slave owner – I said Spanish planter: slaveowner – so not [suggestively] Armelio – but you know what I mean. Three years after this time – no, there are no actual dates…
A: Just three years later.
C: I don’t know at which point they married, but three years after they’ve married, the ship is hit by a tempest and blown off course. The crew are “reduced to famine and extreme distress” and they have no food or drink for three days.
A: Three days.
C: [Laughing] I know! On day three, they decide to cast lots.
C: Name drop!
A: Name drop! Sorry, I was having Medusa flashbacks to three days.
C: Of course, Armelio draws the death lot. Charlotte is distraught and instead tells the crew to eat her. But then, a man called Samba, who is one of Charlotte’s husband’s slaves, volunteers himself because he just [sarcastically] loves his master so much, and really wishes he could be eaten instead.
A: [Uncomfortable noises] Hmmmmm.
C: Yeah, yeah totally, totally, this is definitely how it went down. He even goes so far as to stab himself in the heart, so there can be no argument.
A: [Very sceptical] Hmmmmm.
C: The crew eat Samba, giving them enough food for two days. Which seems…
A: The maths doesn’t quite work out there. But then I suppose they’re not starving, because it’s been three days.
C: So two days later, they propose casting lots again. And, can I just say, I’m aware that this is completely fake now, because Armelio draws the short straw again.
A: Maybe this is just an elaborate ploy, and no-one likes Armelio!
C: Like, at this point, just accept fate, right? Charlotte, again, offers herself, and AGAIN, a black slave, this fellow without a name – well, without being named in the narrative – steps in to replace her, and is killed and eaten. They then cast lots for a third time, and AGAIN, it’s Armelio.
A: Are you kidding me?
C: This is what the story says in the Penny Dreadful.
A: I will kill him myself.
C: [Laughs] This time, he decides to accept his fate. [Laughs] He’s realised God is against him. But they all agree that they’re going to wait a couple of hours, just in case.
A: Oh, not one of these.
C: When no help arrives—
A: Oh thank God.
C: Charlotte begs the crew: ‘Just eat his legs first.’
[Alix laughs incredulously]
C: Just keep him alive as long as possible, we’ll start with the legs. So that’s what they do—
A: So they keep him alive!
C: They keep him alive, but they eat his legs. Charlotte doesn’t join in with that. She’s just appeasing the crew at this point.
A: He’s not going to stay alive!
C: [Laughs] Exactly!
A: That’s just drawing out his suffering more!
C: That night, the crew tell Charlotte: ‘Look, let us eat the rest of your husband, or we’ll kill you both.’ So Charlotte shoots Armelio herself, and they eat him.
A: [Laughing] Does she join in this time?
C: She does not join in this time. As they are consuming her husband, a sail is spotted. It’s an English ship, so Charlotte and her assorted friends pretend to be French sailors to ask for help. I assume doing some very good accents similar to mine.
C: The English ship provides food and grog, “but Charlotte was too much affected at the horrible fate of her husband to eat much”. Charlotte is killed soon after, in a skirmish with a Dutch trading ship. Her crew blow the ship to smithereens to escape capture. Now, if you blow up the entire ship, and kill everyone on it, I don’t know how anyone could have survived to tell that story. But that is supposedly how she went out.
A: You make a good point.
C: Yes. No survivors. Well… I guess the question is: was any of that true?
C: [Laughs] But it does contain a lot of elements from various true stories that we’ve seen – which I think is what makes it interesting.
A: Exactly. Someone who didn’t have our deep level of expertise may read that story and think that would never happen. We’re like ‘Hmm, three days? That’s far too soon for them to start doing with that, and they didn’t even mention eating any jerkins–’
A: ‘–and they didn’t go through the rats first, and what the hell was going on with the same thing with casting lots each time and it just getting the same person, and… Are you kidding me, starting from the legs up? Something doesn’t add up.’
C: This is 1836, so a few of our shipwreck/disaster at sea cannibalism stories have happened. The Essex has happened, 1820…
A: Nautilus, 1807.
C: Yep. So, clearly Mr Edward Lloyd has done a lot of reading and has written a nice story based on it all. And I’ve shared it with you, because even if it’s not true history–
A: It’s not true history.
C: –it’s true history that Edward Lloyd published this in a Penny Dreadful in 1836! And I think that it gives an interesting vision into how cannibalism at sea was represented at that time. And how it was consumed – no pun intended…
A: Pun was totally intended; I can see Carmella’s smug face.
C: By readers, as a piece of print media, and people enjoyed the gruesome stories, much like you are enjoying our stories now. Do you have anything that’s real that we can finish on please, Alix?
A: And with that, we’re going to wrap up with one final story. The Elizabeth Rashleigh. To the niche few of us who actively commit to memory obscure nineteenth century cannibalism ships…
C: [Laughing] So that’s, like, two people.
A: Yes. But to us, the Elizabeth Rashleigh is commonly remembered as the ship that resorted to cannibalism… when there was still food on board.
C: [Laughs] Oh yeah, I do know this one!
A: This isn’t technically true. But I think it says wonders about how much people love a good (or in this case awful) survival cannibalism tale, so it wraps up quite nicely the themes that we’ve been carrying through this Fun on Boats episode. The Elizabeth Rashleigh: the potato boat!
A: In 1835, the Elizabeth Rashleigh is a timber merchant ship transporting goods across the North Atlantic, when she (quote) “experienced a violent gale of wind” and became waterlogged. I put the map reference into Google Maps of where she was stricken, and there’s a lovely picture of some whales, but you have to zoom really far out to work out which bit of the Atlantic you’re in. Helpfully, Lloyd’s List lists the location of the Elizabeth Rashleigh’s sinking as “at sea.”
C: [Laughs] Perfect!
C: I had no idea!
A: But to picture it, you’re in the UK half of the North Atlantic, and if you go in a horizontal straight line you’d hit France on one side, and Canada on the other.
A: So that’s roughly where we are. Regardless of which bit of ocean we’re in however, they’re in trouble. Serious trouble. Six of the crew have been washed overboard and the surviving men, Master Rashleigh (the captain), two mates and three seamen take to the longboat. The main account that we have for the loss of the Elizabeth Rashleigh comes from – fun source coming up – the Select Committee of Shipwrecks of Timber Ships, with the Minutes of Evidence.
C: Oh wow, I bet that’s a thrilling read.
A: I lost many hours to it.
A: But even then, they’re resorting to quotes from The Sailor’s Magazine, so, there’s a lot of hearsay and rumour.
C: He said, she said.
A: On the seashore.
A: I had a lot of fun, like, Control+F: ‘blood, flesh, bodies, ate, lots…’
C: [Laughing] Just the interesting bits, please.
A: Obviously. And d’you know what, there are so many cases of floundering crews surviving on rats and dead bodies, it’s just amazing no one’s done a podcast about it…
C: Yeah, weird that no-one got to it first.
A: But back to the Elizabeth Rashleigh. Her crew do take with them onto the longboat a supply of raw potatoes. “A single potato was served out to each man per diem.”
C: Perfect, that sounds like my diet.
A: Perhaps not surprisingly with the menu on offer, “one of the unfortunate sufferers died insane.”
C: Raw potatoes.
A: One raw potato a day.
C: [Laughs] Can you eat raw potatoes, I thought they were poisonous? Is that just something my mum told me to stop me from eating raw potatoes as a child?
A: Carmella, look at the context!
C: Okay, okay!
A: ‘You mustn’t eat that raw potato, it’s bad for you. Here, human flesh!’
A: Spoilers: it’s cannibalism time. “The survivors were obliged to the horrible experience of drinking the blood and eating the flesh of their deceased shipmates, even to the entrails!”
C: [With false shock] Even to the entrails?
A: They’re not wasting any of it. Reduce, reuse and recycle.
A: The Select Committee on Shipwrecks takes pains to point out that (quote) “a few raw potatoes […] had been exhausted for some days” before the cannibalism started.
C: [Not convinced] Okaaaay.
A: But it is fair to acknowledge that the whole of the Elizabeth Rashleigh’s open boat ordeal was over within nine days.
C: [Laughing] Right, so they have potatoes for several days… and then just had to last a few more.
A: I think that’s the accidental theme of Fun on Boats here. People doing cannibalism a bit too soon.
A: They were picked up by the Caroline on 13 December. Another source takes pains to point out that even before the food had run out, that the potatoes had gone rotten.
C: Oh, well, you don’t want to eat a rotten potato.
A: That would just be awful.
A: Can you imagine? But, yes, nine days is a very quick turnaround.
A: But we’re actually going to go all the way back to our first ever episode – real episode, I’m sorry fans of the Q&A, Episode 0 does not count. When we were researching the Donner Party, we read Desperate Passage by Ethan Rarick.
C: We did.
A: He gives us one of those lovely potted histories of survival cannibalism, and he in fact affirms to his readership that those aboard the Elizabeth Rashleigh began eating the bodies of their dead when “they had store of potatoes” and he phrases his account as such that they had “already” begun eating the dead, implying that they were not wasting any time, and doing so while potatoes were still on the menu. Now, I’m not gonna lie, we are generally advocates for getting on with the cannibalism sooner rather than later – and there’s no implication that anyone died aboard the Elizabeth Rashleigh’s longboat from anything other than natural causes, but I think you should probably wait for the regular food to run out first.
C: [Laughing] Gotta have a balanced meal.
C: Wise words to live by.
A: Wait at least a week.
A: We hope that you’ve enjoyed this season of Casting Lots – it’s been an interesting one to record, what with 2020 – but at least you know that things can always get worse, and worse things happen at sea.
C: And on land, and in the ice. [Big pause] Good luck.
[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]
A: Thank you for listening to the final episode of this season. We hope that you’ve learnt some valuable life lessons.
C: Don’t drink sea water!
A: And we’ll sea–
A: You again for Season Three. Believe it or not, there are still more survival cannibalism stories for us to tell.
[Outro music continues]
A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod, and on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.
C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.
A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast, is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley – @Tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram – with audio and music by Daniel Wackett – Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @ds_wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network – search #MorbidAudio on Twitter – and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody – mikaelamoody1 on Bandcamp.
[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]