The Shipwreck of the S. S. Earnmoor

Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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11 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    “How long is it?

    “That’s a rather personal question, sir.”Report

  2. Damon says:

    “I smell manflesh!”Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    The lifeboat was adrift for twenty days, during which time the number of men on the board went from eleven to seven. Four men somehow didn’t make it, two offer a tale of lurid cannibalism in which two of their crewmates became food and two jumped (or, more likely, were thrown) overboard.

    Fresh water becomes a survival imperative a long time before food does. I presume water could have been obtained from improvised rain catchments, but that’s only going to get the survivors so far. Human blood doesn’t seem likely to quench a need for water, though I suppose it might offer some degree of nutrition (along with a huge host of diseases, but we are talking about desparate measures here).

    So a serious question: if we take the story at its word that for a while, there was some sort of way to catch fish and sea birds, was resorting to cannibalism necessary? Because I’m not 100% confident that reporters of that era weren’t above finding ways to “enhance” the salability of their story.

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I am 100% confident that reporters of that era and ours would totally enhance a story. This is a constant problem in my baseball research. A player has a bad game and some reporter says he threw the game for gamblers. You get a feedback loop. Game throwing seems plausible, so any time a team loses a game that someone thinks they ought to have won the accusation goes forth, reinforcing the perception of its plausibility. You can find any number of modern writers who repeat these accusations, while the number of confirm instances is tiny.

      As for the cannibalism, there were details I left out for brevity. One of the crew survived up to the rescue, but fell in the water during the transfer to the schooner and sank like a rock. There was a mention of catching some rain. It is not clear how they caught what little they did. The flying fish might well have been its simply landing in the boat. The birds seem a tougher catch. I don’t know. What I really want to know is did they have a functioning mast and sail? If so, why couldn’t they just point west and aim for North America? Contrary winds, maybe, but there was no mention. I infer that the boat was unusually poorly equipped due to the circumstances of its launching.

      Mostly I am willing to seriously entertain the cannibalism story because of the otherwise strangely tepid denial by the owner.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    Various sources cite cannibals comparing the taste to pork (hence the “long pork” references). At least one published account said veal.Report

  5. Slade the Leveller says:

    It only took 11 days for these guys to get hungry enough to resort to cannibalism? They must’ve been halfway there before they left port! Sheesh, it took Bobby Sands 2 months to starve to death.Report