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LOST SHIPS AND LONELY SEAS

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.

 
Parr, Brighouse, Conway, and myself proposed to scuttle the boat and let her go down, to put us out of our misery, but the other two objected, observing that God, who had made man, always found him something to eat. On the twenty-second day M'Kinnon proposed that it would be better to cast lots for one of us to die in order to save the rest, to which we consented. William Parr, being seized two days before with the spotted fever, was excluded. He wrote the numbers and put them into a hat, and we drew them out blindfolded and put them in our pockets.