The human drama of the Medusa Shipwreck
First published 1975 by Souvenir Press Limited, London
ISBN 0 285 62163 7
A black cloth bound book with silver lettering to spine - VERY GOOD + condition in a clipped and spine faded dust wrapper in VERY GOOD condition.
145 mm. x 220 mm. x 29 mm.
£6.50 + P & P
When in 1816 the captain of the French frigate-transport Medusa reported that he had lost his ship by stranding off the coast of West Africa, he gave no indication that what had happened was anything other than an ordinary shipwreck caused by poor charts of a little known coast.
His officers told the authorities a different tale, and when the terrible stories of mutiny, prolonged suffering, internecine slaughter and eventual cannibalism were related to the Minister of Marine in Paris he realised that he faced the shipwreck scandal of the century.
At the time the shadow of Waterloo hung over war-racked Europe, and made objective reporting, particularly in politically unstable France, an impossibility. When at last the true nightmare story became known, it was dismissed by everyone as an isolated incident, a human aberration that could never happen again.
Not only does Alexander McKee recreate one of the greatest sea tragedies of all time, hour by hour as it happened, using fresh source material, he is also the first historian to discover in this terrible drama a vital pattern of human behaviour under stress, a pattern that was to repeat itself, however different the outward circumstances, no matter what the century. He studied the behaviour of British seamen drifting on rafts in the same area of the South Atlantic at the same time of the year during World War II. He turned to the experiences of groups of North Americans confined in a hijacked jet in the Jordan desert in Summer, and to the South American survivors of an aeroplane crash marooned in the Andes in Winter.
His findings are clear: man reacts predictably under conditions of extreme hardship. What happened on the raft in 1816 happened again. The Medusa incident still has a lesson for mankind in self-understanding.
1 Landlocked (June, 1816)
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