As a young boy of eleven, Joshua was intrigued by sea travel. He even wanted to pursue a career in shipping. Most preferably, he wanted to become a ship captain. Throughout his school years, the young boy read numerous stories about the wondrous sites, experiences, and regions that had been discovered by many sea voyagers. Every single night, Joshua’s dreams revealed to him most of the wonders associated with the oceans. He could see big creatures, sharks, giant ships, and uninhabited islands in his dreams. The thoughts of the seas continued to fascinate him throughout his childhood and early adulthood. In 1756, Joshua landed a new job.
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He was to become a messenger for a giant mining firm in Europe. The company mined and exported coal to different parts of North America and Europe. The major transportation systems used during the time included railroads and seaways. This new job as a messenger did not seem to fulfill his childhood dreams. However, he was proud of the job because it gave him the opportunity to interact with more people, learn new ideas, and see the world from different perspectives. On top of that, Joshua’s dream of visiting different foreign lands and exploring the unknown world would come true.
Love, Survival, and Cannibalism
It was an opportune moment for Joshua when his employer decided to send him on a mission to North America. The purpose of this mission was to visit different clients in North America and gather useful information about their expectations. This information, according to Joshua’s relatives and friends, would be vital towards improving the corporation’s coal production processes. The company would use the acquired information to improve its practices and eventually become a global player in the coal mining industry. However, the most thrilling thing was the fact that Joshua was going to embark on his first sea voyage. He said to himself that the journey would be something to remember. The most astounding fact is that Joshua’s voyage has always been narrated from one generation to the next.
The journey started a few minutes before daybreak. The members of the crew began the journey with much hope. The eight men believed strongly that the voyage would be successful. Seven of the crew members were on a routine mission of delivering coal to North America. They knew that the journey would take them several weeks across before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The ship named Libra had ferried coal to different parts of the globe for over ten years.
The ship’s captain was named Jackson. The captain was conversant with the seaway. Members of the crew used to call him “Sweet Jack.” Under his command, the team had always managed to achieve its missions. His skills were vital towards supporting the logistical goals of the company. Similarly, the company-owned ship was vital towards supporting the company’s success.
Joshua’s experience at sea was something to remember. He saw most of the things and wonders he had anticipated over the years. The cool breeze and calmness of the sea shocked him. The other members of the crew could testify that Joshua was on his first sea voyage. Throughout the night, Joshua stayed awake as the Libra displaced more and more water. The Libra met its unexpected misfortune on the seventh day after leaving Europe. The Libra was in unknown waters somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
On this fateful day, her cargo (mostly coal) mysteriously ignited. The crew realized with great shock that the ship was on fire. With minimal chances of saving the Libra, the crew made a desperate decision and climbed into a life-boat. The troubled ship had only one life-boat. The ship burned abruptly and sunk within less than an hour. The cause of the fire was still unknown to the crew. The individuals had no alternative but to be thankful because their lives had been saved. To Joshua, the events were unbearable and impossible to believe. He constantly shook his head and cursed the gods for the misfortune that had befallen the ship.
The captain of the ship could not hide his pain. As well, he could also not explain how such a catastrophe had happened to the crew. The most important thing was to sail to safety and inform the relevant authorities about the misfortune that had befallen the Libra. Unfortunately, the captain informed the crew that it would take them over a month before getting to the sea. The crewmembers also learned with great astound that their navigational instruments and food supplies had gone down with the Libra.
Four days after the loss of the ship, the crew realized with great amazement that they could not survive without water and food. Joshua was the most troubled because he was experiencing something he had never imagined in his life. He so much wanted to see his family members and newly-wed wife again. Similar worries troubled the other members of the crew. One of the members named James, encouraged the crewmembers to drink seawater in order to increase their chances of survival.
However, the others declined the offer and chose to stay strong despite the challenges facing them. James, who had been drinking seawater for several days, became delirious. The member of the crew died on the fifth day after the sinking of Libra. The captain of the ship chose to act diligently in an attempt to secure the survival of every crewmember.
Mark, another member of the crew, had always been characterized by his teammates as a sadist. It was evident that he never cared about many things in his life. Another unique attribute was that he was always courageous. More often than not, Mark would encourage his friend to take things lightly because nothing in the universe was quite serious. He used to say that life was an exploration, and every person was expected to experiment and re-experiment. After seeing the kind of suffering and anguish faced by members of the crew, Mark decided to offer his own body and make sure no one died because of hunger. With great confidence, Mark entreated the crewmembers to kill him and consume his flesh. By so doing, Mark believed strongly that the crewmembers would have addressed the main problem troubling them.
Some of the crewmembers welcomed the decision because it seemed to address a burning issue. However, the captain seemed to differ. He told the members that every person was supposed to be part of the decision. With this idea in mind, Jackson encouraged the crew to agree to a drawing. The greatest challenge was how they would make the most desirable lottery. Very soon, the captain decided that the use of sticks of varying lengths would be an effective method.
The golden rule was that the individual who drew the shortest stick would become their prey. The person who would draw the longest would execute the victim. A feeling of apathy and mistrust was evident among the crewmembers. The lottery was something they had never witnessed before. The distrust portrayed by the crewmembers emerged from the fact that the same exercise would be repeated again until the luckiest crewmembers found their way to safety.
The results of the first drawing attempt picked Mark, the same sailor who had offered his body for free even before invoking this new method. Mark laughed loudly and unstoppably after the announcement of the results. Mark argued that the members of the crew had chosen a ridiculous method to make the same choice he had presented to them before. The crew decided not to kill Mark, and therefore a second attempt was required. After the second attempt, Jackson drew the shortest stack, and therefore it was the end of his life.
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Without the slightest sign of resistance, the crewmember who selected the longest stick strangled the captain to death. The events that followed were indescribable. The level of mistrust among the surviving six members of the crew increased. The sudden death of the captain disoriented the leadership that had characterized the crew for years. For Joshua, the events were unbelievable. For the first time in his life, the novice had witnessed and acknowledged the existence of cannibalism on earth.
Funny enough, Joshua would be one of the people to feast on human flesh. The members of the crew wondered who would be the next victim. In an unexpected twist of events, Joshua jumped into the unrelenting seawaters and vanished. It was evident that Joshua preferred his body to be fed by sharks and fishes of the sea.
Three days after Jackson’s death, the remaining members of the crew spotted a ship that was heading their way. The crewmembers signaled the ship and sounded a distress call. The ship came their way and rescued them. For the rest of their lives, the rescued crewmembers could never come to terms with what had befallen them. The individuals chose to maintain a low profile and keep the dirty secret in their minds forever.
However, the horrors and pains of the happenings could not escape their minds. After the horrific story surfaced, many people in America and Europe found it impossible to believe what had happened. Later afterward, the survivors came to terms with the horrors that had befallen them. However, they could not believe that they had feasted on the flesh of one of the best captains they had ever met. This thought continued to trouble them for the rest of their lives on earth.
Many people argue that the story must have been exaggerated. Others have stated categorically that the hilarious story is nothing more than folklore. Interestingly, modern historians have proved that numerous cases of cannibalism took place throughout the 18th century. Indeed, ethicists have argued that survival cannibalism under troubling circumstances at sea had become a custom, especially during the Victorian era. Historians still believe strongly that the issues associated with cannibalism will continue to define human relationships for many years to come. Today, the story and legacy of Joshua continue to be narrated with much caution and displeasure. Future generations will always reexamine the facts of Joshua’s story and discover how critical moments call for devilish options.