An Allegory Takes Flight

Ten days previously, there’d been seven ships, forty-nine days out of Batavia, en route to the Netherlands via the Cape of Good Hope.  But by the end of that day, three of them had simply disappeared, never to be heard from again.  The remaining four tried to stay within sight but the cyclone was beyond anything the Dutch East Indiamen had ever weathered.  The next day, without sails or rudder, the Arnhem found her hull being torn open upon the shoals of the Cargados Carajos.  The longboat went over the side and 108 desperate men piled in.

For nine days, they rowed and sailed as best they could to the southwest, following the white line of the reefs.  When they finally reached the shorelines of the island of Mauritius, only 80 of them remained.  Many died of injuries, some from starvation, others from drinking salt water.  A few had simply gone mad and were thrown overboard.
The castaways worked to make a life on the island, not knowing how long they’d be marooned.  Fortunately, Mauritius was lush, with plenty of fresh water, shelter, and food.  They broke up into groups and spread out, but maintaining regular contact in case of a passing ship.  On May 22, 1662, at the end of their third month on the island, an English ship was flagged down and they were rescued.

This account of shipwreck and survival would never have stood out from the dozens of others that occurred that year were it not for the journal kept by a sailor from the Arnhem in which he described how he and his companions would catch and eat a group of squat flightless birds they encountered on a small islet on the west side of Mauritius: the last reliable account of a live Dodo bird.


Enbrethiliel said...


If this had happened in modern times, I wonder what PETA would have slapped those sailors with.

cyurkanin said...

Who knows...

It seems that the Dodo was actually finished off by floods and natural predators but it'll always be the symbol of man's intrusion upon the world (as if he wasn't actually PART of it, but I digress...)