Before the anchor had even touched bottom, a launch was pushed away from the schooner and rowing madly towards the French fishing vessel working the waters of Noddy Bay, where France still retained some rights to the Newfoundland coast after the French and Indian War.
As the little shuttle approached, an English officer seated precariously on the bow raised a copper speaking-trumpet to his mouth and excitedly called out to the crewmen now gathering at the rail.
“Have you a surgeon aboard?!”
It was another hour before the surgeon stepped over the gunnel of the HMS Grenville. A crowd of sailors surrounded him and rushed him below towards the captain’s cabin. “His powder horn exploded,” they repeatedly told him.
As the doctor opened the door, he was greeted with moans of agony. A man lay drenched in sweat, all color gone from his face. He was being held down by the First Mate and his right arm was stretched out over the edge of the bed. It was wrapped in a crimson-stained sheet that was still dripping into a wooden bucket.
The doctor knelt by the arm and slowly peeled away the wrapping until a hand was revealed. A giant gash was ripped open at the base of the forefinger that stretched nearly to the wrist; the thumb dangled by a tendon.
“I think I can save it,” he told the Mate, “but the scarring will be terrific...”
Fifteen years later, on February 20th, 1779, a small boat was launched from an English vessel and rowed into another remote bay; this one in the Sandwich Islands. There it retrieved a small bag, full of body parts.
It was in this way that the dismembered body of the slain Captain James Cook was identified. By the scar on his right hand.