The six deserters pulled out to sea in the hope of finding the island of Ascension, which lay eight hundred miles to the northwest of St. Helena. Corporal Parr had been a seaman, and he thought he knew how to shoot the sun and figure out his position; but after a week of fine weather it was his uneasy conviction that they must have run past Ascension. With a sail made of their shirts stitched together, they bore away for the coast of South America on the chance of finding Rio Janeiro. Provisions were so short that they limited themselves to one ounce of bread and two mouthfuls of water a day.
After a fortnight at sea they were chewing their leather shoes, and Private John Brown, in a statement prepared after the rescue, explained how they selected one of their number to be used as food for the others.