After knowing that Ron Howard is making a film (*) about the Essex case, I have been searching for further information of others terrible manifestations of this one particular of those non-written rules which were then called "The customs of the sea".
|"Custom of the sea" by Richard Lewer|
(*) While reading about this new movie I have been asking myself why every movie´s Director and Producer of this planet is spending money in bad movies instead of spending it into a good movie or serie about the last Franklin expedition, or why not, about the life of Sir John Franklin.
|Whaleship Essex |
Of course, I quickly remembered the case of the ship Mignonette which in 1884 was also a famous case of this sad and morbid custom. But this time, the case didn´t finished as another mere example of how cruel were the conditions which the castaways should afford. The trial and its verdict established certain jurisprudence about this subject.
That ship, the Mignonette, shipwrecked in the surroundings of the Cape Good Hope. The crew, four men, managed themshelves to take the lifeboat, and with it they saved temporarily their lives. They were wandering by the sea for some time. The situation lasted too much and it enworsened quickly to the point that they finally resorted to kill the cabin boy to feed the others. According with some testimonies, the boy was by then in coma, though this point is not completely clear. The Cabin boy beared the name of Richard Parker which would become soon an eternal synonymus of martyrdom and inspiration for writers and film makers.
One curious detail is that the ship which found and saved the survivors from a certain dead was a German ship which was called Montezuma. In my opinion, this fact, could only be interpreted as a signal or as a forecast of the storm which was going to come after and as a forecast of the fear which the accused surely felt during the process: The Montezuma´s revenge.
Those men were judged and, yes, they were condemned after a long and controversial trial to the death penalty, in part to serve as an example for the future. However, their sentence was after all conmuted for only six months of imprissonment and the men saved their lifes.
Searching a little more, and digging into the neverending source of information of Google, I have learned about the existence of this other, and apparently very interesting, book:
As if I were reached by an harpoon, a question has then suddenly raised inside my mind. The question is clear, the title of the book says all:
"Is eating people wrong?" and what is more "Is eating people legal?"
(of course, considering the above mentioned mitigating circunstances of being a survivor of a shipwreck and of being wandering for weeks helplessly in the sea).
My question or questions, which have to be necessarily matched to the Franklin Expedition in one or other way, goes even further:
"What would have happened in 1849 or 1850 if the crews of the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would have managed to reach England? Would have they been judged and condemned?"
Supposing, and this is the key assumption, that they applied the "Custom of the sea" while they were fighting for their lives in King William Island or in Starvation Cove, surely, the same justice which fourty years after condemned those survivors of the Mignonette to death surely would have condemned this others men to a similar fate if they would have find a way to return home.
I guess that this could be a good script for a fiction novel:
The men of the Franklin expedition didn´t perished and they don´t dissapeared forever. Some of its members reached their homeland safe and sound, yes, but only to be severely judged and to be condemned to death!.
P.S.: If someone wants to write a novel using this idea, please feel free to do it... always that you mention me in the Acknowledgement section of your book. He he he!