S3 E10. SEA PART II – The Invercauld
Manage episode 316109384 series 2659594
Alix shares a shipwreck story with one hell of a plot twist in today’s episode on the Invercauld.
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With thanks to Emily for transcription help.
Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.
Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.
Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.
Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.
- Aberdeen City Council. (2018). Invercauld. Available at: http://www.aberdeenships.com/single.asp?offset=1350&index=110961
- Allen, M.F. (1997). Wake of the Invercauld. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
- ‘Auckland Islands helicopter crash: Survivors reveal sheer panic, then night on island’. (2019). New Zealand Herald, 26 April. Available at: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-islands-helicopter-crash-survivors-reveal-sheer-panic-then-night-on-island/LFK5Q5CLP23LYOTE4TQIMS2TTQ/
- Craighead, L. (2012). ‘Moral strength and ingenuity vs despair and cannibalism’. Review of Island of the Lost, by Joan Druett. National Business Review, 27 July. Available at: https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/island-lost-shipwrecked-edge-world-joan-druett-weekend-review-ja-124562
- Druett, J. (2007). Island of the Lost. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
- Eden, A.W. (1955). ‘The Wrecks of the Invercauld and the Compadre’, in Islands of Despair. London: Andrew Melrose, pp. 62-69. Available at: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-EdeIsla-t1-body-d7.html
- Gibbs, M. (2003). ‘The Archaeology of Crisis: Shipwreck Survivor Camps in Australasia’, Historical Archaeology, 37(1), pp. 128-145. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25617048
- ‘Invercauld’. (n.d.). New Zealand Bound. Available at: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~nzbound/invercauld.htm
- ‘Invercauld (Ship)’. (2021). Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invercauld_(ship)
- Jackson, B. (2019). ‘Auckland Islands helicopter pilot recalls violent crash’, Stuff, 26 April. Available at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/112269190/auckland-islands-helicopter-crash-survivors-reunited
- Lubans, J. (2010). ‘Shipwrecks & Leadership’, Leading from the Middle, 17 August. Available at: https://blog.lubans.org/index.php?itemid=139
- Pdpeacock. (2012). ‘Leadership is Essential for Group Survival’, Wilderness Innovation, 12 January. Available at: https://wildernessinnovation.com/2012/01/12/leadership-is-essential-for-group-survival/
- Peterson, D. (2015). ‘Can you tame the Black Swan?’, The Community Banker, 4(3), pp. 12-13. Available at: https://vacb-community-banker.thenewslinkgroup.org/flippingbooks/Pub4-2015-Issue3/12/
- Quinet, A. (1882). François Edouard Raynal. Available at: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8450673d/f1.item
- Rowe, D. (2021). ‘A Tale of Two Shipwrecks’, New Zealand Geographic, 167. Available at: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/a-tale-of-two-shipwrecks/
- Scadden, K. (2006). ‘Castaways’, in Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Available at: https://teara.govt.nz/mi/castaways/print
- Smith, A. (1866). The Castaways. Aberdeen: A. Brown and Co. Available at: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-921072453/view?partId=nla.obj-921075176#page/n0/mode/1up
- Spence, E.L. (2017). Shipwrecks of May 11. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/shipwrecks-of-may-11/
- ‘The Ship Invercauld’. (n.d.). Dartmoor Trust. Available at: https://dartmoortrust.org/archive/record/107230?redirected=true
- Wood, D.E. (2009). ‘Cardiothoracic surgery: a specialty divided or as one’, The Journal of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, 137(1), pp. 1-9. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/81200184.pdf
Alix: Have you ever been really, really hungry?
Carmella: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.
A: I’m Alix.
C: I’m Carmella.
A: And now let’s tuck into the gruesome history of this ultimate taboo…
[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]
C: Welcome to Episode Ten, the Invercauld.
[Intro music continues]
A: Are you ready to feel the salt spray on your face, and hear the inevitable crunch as your allegedly sturdy ship ploughs straight into some sharp rocks?
C: [enthusiastic] Oh yeah, boy am I!
A: Perfect. Carmella, would you like to learn about the Invercauld?
C: Yes please!
A: We are really getting back to Alix’s Golden Age of Survival Cannibalism. We’re back onboard a wooden ship in the 19th century!
C: Woo! I have to say, I don’t think it’s just your golden age, I think it’s just a golden age in general, and you have no influence over it.
A: That’s what you think! [C laughs] It’s like the film Arrival, it actually, it all goes round and round in circles and its actually me speaking the cannibalism into effect.
C: …like Herman Melville!
A: Oh my gosh, our evil art!! [C laughs]
C: Please tell me about the Invercauld.
A: The Invercauld – may or may not be pronounced like that, Season 3 really is the season that Alix just gives up with trying to say anything properly – but she is, of course, on her maiden voyage!
C: Ooh yes! …I have a question. Do you think the phrase ‘maiden voyage’ will be cancelled at some point? I assume it’s some kind of like, maidenhood, kind of…
A: [laughing] The Invercauld has been wrecked for 140 slutty, slutty years!
C: [laughing] Exactly! I’m like, do you think at some point that discourse will come about?
A: Well it will now, because you’ve spoken it into effect!
C: I’m starting it here: maiden voyage, really sexist! …I don’t know whether I’m joking or not! [A: ‘Hey!’?] [A laughs] Just language, huh? Anyways, what happened to her?
A: It’s May 1864, and the Invercauld has set sail from Melbourne to South America. She’s a working ship, preparing to take on a hold of fertiliser from Peru for transportation and sale.
C: Ooh, nice. Fertiliser’s a new one.
A: Nice, warm, nutritious fertiliser.
A: But important to note – she’s preparing to pick up the fertiliser; she’s currently empty of pretty much anything useful.
C: Cool, cool.
A: She’s about 1,100 tones with 25 men aboard. All men, no women, or passengers – the three genders: men, women, and passengers—
A: Some of us have worked customer service for too long! And the crew are all pretty much strangers to each other. Most men are from Aberdeen, there’s the odd Englishman, there’s the odd man that’s been picked up from Australia, but they’re not cohesive unit. But all in all, everything is fairly routine. In fact, the anchors have been lashed to the deck of the ship, because that’s what you do.
C: Is it?
A: I certainly can’t think of anything that you might need anchors for, while crossing by quite dangerous islands known as the Jaws of Hell, can you?
A: It’ll be fine. The Captain of the Invercauld is a man called George Dalgarno and sadly, I know next to nothing about Dalgano – well, there was one article which described him as, quote, ‘pathetic’—
C: [laughs] We know one thing about George!
A: I don’t even know if he has a big, bushy Captain’s beard, although I assume he does by the end.
C: Let’s just assume that he has one, it’s important to my visualisation process.
A: Of this pathetic, pathetic Scotsman. There is also the possibility – purely through googling ‘George Dalgano’ who was from Scotland – that he might be related to another Scottish George Dalgano, who was a linguist who studied philosophical language, aka. an early form of universal sign language!
C: Oh, that’s cool!
A: Disability history, woo! Doesn’t normally come up in this podcast, people normally die before they can become disabled. Invercauld is sailing eastwards, and to get boring and maritime for a moment, she’s at an approximate latitude in the 50s.
C: That means…things to me, absolutely, 100%.
A: See, the next line in my script is ‘hmm, how to properly explain longitude and latitude a) without sounding like a condescending dick and b) without drawing lines on an orange…’ so, I’m sure this is going to work for an audio-based medium, but here we go. Let’s just do latitude, not get over complicated. The equator is latitude 0 – the bit round the middle.
A: The globe is divided into segments up to 90 both North and South.
A: So, the lines around the orange.
C: You might have heard of the phrase ‘roaring 40s’?
C: Ah, is that related to the latitude?
A: That is related to the latitude. And not the roaring 20s – the roaring 20s…
C: That’s Gatsby.
A: The roaring 40s are much windier and less jazzy – [C laughs] – than the roaring 20s, ignore the 20s, they’re out. Sticking with the 40s. Basically, the further south you get down the latitude, the more fucked up the wind is.
A: This is a technical term. I did half a course on FutureLearn about meteorology, so basically I’m a weatherman.
C: …are they not anchors, people who do the weather?
A: No, the anchors are lashed to the deck!
A: You have the roaring 40s, the furious 50s and the screaming 60s.
C: [laughs] Love that!
A: These are winds that sailors fear for quite good reason.
C: Well, because they’re furious and screaming!
A: And roaring.
C: And roaring.
A: There’s a sailor’s adage that goes: ‘below 40 degrees south, there is no law; below 50 degrees, there is no God.’
A: Invercauld is sailing in the 50s.
C: We are out of God’s…hands.
A: They pass by my ancestral homeland, ‘Disappointment Island’…
C: I was really that like ‘oh, what’s your heritage, Alix, I didn’t know this!’
A: [laughs] Disappointment Island, it’s one of the Auckland Islands. [beat] It’s not actually my heritage, we’ve covered this in the Irish episode, I am as white as they come. But the weather for Invercauld really does match the mood of the furious 50s, there is a thick snowstorm and even with a double look out, when land is spotted – 20 miles closer than it’s expected to be – there is no hope for the ship, especially because her masts are made of iron as opposed to wood.
C: That’s an interesting choice.
A: It’s not uncommon, just as it’s not uncommon to have wire instead of rope, but this is, um…heavier.
A: Remember how her anchors are lashed to the bow?
C: I do remember that, because it did come up.
A: Meaning there’s nothing to stop her from dashing straight into the rocks in this storm?
C: Oh no, who could have foreseen that consequence…!
A: So the Invercauld is wrecked on the northern cliffy coast of Auckland Island in the early hours of the 11th of May 1864. Six men drown during the sinking, and in the scramble to safety, and those who survive that first night were in a sorry state.
C: To say the least. Is it still snowing?
A: To be honest with you, we don’t hear a lot about weather. I’m assuming it is in a constant state of sleet, snow, rain, and misery.
A: The men are left to consider their new home, Auckland Island, lovingly described as ‘a remote godforsaken place in the fierce expanse of ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica. Year-round freezing rain, howling wind, and lack of adjacent shipping make Auckland Island one of the most remote and forbidding places on Earth.’
C: Cosy, then.
A: It’s a mere 465 kilometres from New Zealand.
C: Basically neighbours.
A: Incredibly remote and isolated…and even Britain failed to set up a colony there.
C: [laughing] What?
A: The settlement of Hardwicke was founded in 1849…and then abandoned in 1852.
C: Oh so they did attempt to do it.
A: Oh yeah, they failed.
C: Oh I’m not surprised that they hey failed, that’s just their thing, but ok they did attempt…I thought you meant they’d never even tried.
A: You know, the Brits love an underdog.
C: They love a colonisation.
A: [joking correction] Underdog.
A: Speaking of the Brits loving a trier, the island has had some famous visitors before Invercauld and her crew crash landed – some very familiar ships to us carrying an extraordinarily handsome British officer made land in 1840…
A: And they set up, of all things, an Observatory. Do to want to hazard a guess as to which ships, or indeed, which famous handsome officer, had visited Auckland Island?
C: I would assume, ships could be…did the Erebus and Terror go that way…?
A: Ding ding ding!
C: …on their Antarctic expedition?
A: It is of course our old friends HMS Terror and Erebus…
C: And wasn’t it Ross who led that expedition?
A: The effervescent and handsome James Clark Ross was indeed at the helm! Those two really do get around, don’t they?
C: It’s very much like watching a BBC show in that there’s only a few actors, that you’ve got to share them out.
A: If in doubt, we will cram a Franklin reference in there.
A: And most of the time, they are actually organic. It does get to the point during this research that it’s like ‘seriously?’
C: ‘Again, this guy?’
A: It’s like ‘oh Franklin, what a surprise, it’s you.’ But by now, in 1864, Terror and Erebus are long sunk, and the crew of Invercauld have as similar fate in store.
A: C’mon Carmella, you know what happened to the crews of Terror and Erebus!
C: Well they…starved to death and ate one other.
A: No spoilers!
A: The supplies that the men have managed to retrieve from Invercauld are pitiful, a little salted pork and ship’s biscuit – approximately two pounds of each. And the beach is not looking like profitable hunting grounds. Luckily, in perhaps the only stroke of luck these men have, they do have some matches.
A: And after building a pretty poor hut they light a fire. They do, however, manage to burn one of their two boxes of matches by trying to dry them out.
C: I was gonna ask, ‘are the matches dry?’ – well the answer was ‘too dry.’
A: Far too dry. Ordinary sailor Robert Holding seizes the remaining box and refuses to give them up to anyone.
C: Is that a ‘keeping them safe’ or ‘hoarding them’ situation?
A: Quite how he gets away with that I’m not sure, but it does turn out to be quite a good call for him. You may be able to guess, but 23-year-old Holding is about to become our main character.
C: Is he ‘Holding’ the matches?
A: …Get out.
A: Because we have a main character and, spoilers, limited survivors, our timeline starts to get a bit muddy. Andrew Smith, the First Mate, would later write that, quote: ‘The island was high, and to appearance all but inaccessible; nothing but fragments of the wreck were to be seen, and little food was to be had. Some roots were found; and all but the Captain ate of these, and the little pork and biscuit that had been washed from the wreck.’ The bodies of the drowned men were stripped when they washed ashore, and then left for the birds.
C: Okay, weird decisions in all directions. Normally you would either bury them, or bury them at sea or eat them.
A: Okay, well how are they going to bury them at sea, they are stuck on the island…
C: [laughing] Sort of push them back out, was what I was picturing!
A: I think that’s about the level, ‘oh, the scavengers can have them…’
C: Yeah, ok.
A: It does seem like a waste.
C: Although, we often talk about using bodies to fish…sounds like they’re luring birds, did they catch the birds and eat them, Alix?
A: [disappointed in every single survivor] No.
C: Right, okay.
A: No they did not. My mind will always go back to the Peggy and how they never had to resort to survival cannibalism because they used the bodies to fish with. Come on people, use your initiative!
C: From now on I’m just going to be picturing, whatever what you tell me, that in the background there’s this hoard of birds picking over corpses, and they’re like ‘we have no food!’ [A laughs]
A: The survivors spend five days on the beach before it is decided to move on, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of leadership on display. In fact there is no leadership on display, it’s an absolute travesty.
C: The Captain’s still alive at this point?
A: The Captain’s still alive, he’s not really doing much, he’s a bit miserable, can’t think why…
C: He’s refused to eat the roots, but he is there.
A: He is there. With the persuasion of Holding the majority of the men set to scale the cliffs that are surrounding them.
A: Three men have already just wandered off; one man is too injured to attempt the climb, and the final man pledges to stay with his injured fellow.
C: Aw, that’s nice.
A: Don’t worry, he later abandons him, claims that he’s died, but then admits to Holding that he was actually still alive, he just wanted to leave.
A: Surprisingly enough, the group starts to fragment around now.
C: [interested] Mmm.
A: The first mate writes that, quote, ‘seven of our company went back to the wreck, but they never came back, and we never saw anything more of them.’
C: I think they probably drowned.
A: And in our main narrative from Holding we hear that he was trying to persuade the despondent officers including Captain Dalgarno and the first & second mates, to follow him.
C: Mm, and this is Holding’s account.
A: This is Holding’s account.
C: Right, so he takes charge and no-one else is doing anything, and he’s the only one who knows anything.
A: Yes and no.
C: Ooh, okay.
A: I’ll come out with it here: the book that I read for this, Island Of The Lost, uses Holding’s account predominantly, but I’ve not actually been able to find Holding’s account.
C: Oh, interesting.
A: I am working under the assumption that it is somewhere in a private archive…
A: …and hasn’t been published, but the Captain and the First Mate’s accounts have been. So I have their direct quotes – spoilers for who survives – but only the second-hand account of what Holding wrote.
C: He said, she said.
A: Speaking of the First Mate, Andrew Smith wrote that, quote: ‘Death soon began to thin their ranks. The man they had left behind on the rock below died in a day or two’ – the one who was abandoned—
C: The one who was already dead, right, right?
A: Yeah, he was totally already dead. ‘And the cook – whose name is unknown – died soon after reaching the top of the island.’
C: Ooh. Normally the cooks last a good long time in these stories.
A: There seems to be absolutely no attempt to keep anyone other than oneself alive.
C: Ah, the British way!
A: [laughing] Very good, very good. As the party splits, Holding leaves those too apathetic to carry on at the top of the cliffs, and returns to the beach. Here he is joined by some other men, possibly some of the seven, possibly some of the three who’d already wandered off, and after coming across the body of the ship’s pig, they light a fire, and well…in Holding’s account, ‘did we eat it? Of course!’
A: I’m not quite sure why he started a comedy routine, but never mind.
C: [laughing] Ah, great guy!
A: This is when cannibalism is first raised. It’s the boatswain who suggests that those huddled around the fire should cast lots to see who should sacrifice himself to save the others.
C: Wait, immediately after having eaten this pig?
A: Either immediately…or maybe 5 days? Time gets a little bit interesting in this account because no-one really makes a note of when anything is happening.
C: I just love the idea of, like, currently eating a good meal of pig, being like ‘so, who’s next then?’
A: Are you saying that isn’t exactly what we would be doing?
C: [laughing] That’s very true.
A: Holding is horrified by this discussion of cannibalism; he says he would never eat another man.
C: Oh no.
A: But, after realising that if he doesn’t agree to cast lots, he’s likely to be murdered…
A: …he runs away.
C: If you ain’t in it, you can’t win it.
A: You’ll see why later, but this whole story, in fact the whole story of Invercauld, gets moralised in a very black and white way. And this incident has been referred to as, quote, ‘a grotesque descent into cannibalism.’
C: Seems unfair!
A: It does seem unfair, this was a democratically decided castings of lots, that is the custom of the sea!
C: I would say it’s one of the less messy descents into cannibalism we’ve seen!
A: Now, there is something a bit strange about this whole situation for me, and I think we’ve already covered that the timeline’s a bit foggy…because evidence points to the fact there’s there is already a body on the beach.
C: Oh yeah, that guy who was already dead!
A: Exactly, the injured man who had been left behind.
C: Ooh…when they said they’d found the body of the ship’s pig, was that a euphemism? You know, is that like him not wanting to admit that ate a guy, like, it was definitely a pig…sort of Mawson and the dog meat thing?
A: That is actually a really good point, because only Holding survives out of this group. There is no-one to confirm or deny that.
C: And it would make more sense if you were currently eating a human body to say, ‘who’s next, guys?’ Then if you were currently eating a pig. Or, I could just be saying these things because I like that kind of drama, and y’know, maybe they were just genuinely eating a pig, anyway.
A: I mean, they could have been, but in Holding’s own account, they’ve already eaten, quote: ‘rotten and difficult to eat meat.’
C: [Interested] Mmm!
A: So, the fact that the injured man who’d been left behind had been left behind for a few days…
C: ‘Rotten and difficult to eat?’
A: The carcass of the pig will have been rotten and difficult to eat and been dead for days, so it makes me wonder whether what Holding objected to was the idea of murder as opposed to the idea of cannibalism.
A: Because it seems really foolish to a) discuss casting lots when there’s already a body lying around…
C: Or indeed a pig, yeah.
A: Or indeed a pig. And none of them have had the strength to bury any of the bodies, bodies of men have been covered with sand or rocks, they’ve not actually been disposed of.
C: And what about all these birds?? Things aren’t adding up in this story!
A: But anyway, Holding runs away. As the Otago Witness would later report in 1865 – a newspaper, not, like, a…
A: Person, yeah. ‘There was a good supply of water on the island. Nothing in the shape of sustenance but roots and a species of limpet could be found on the island’…and of course, all these birds.
C: And the bodies. And the pig, yeah.
A: Sustenance was hard to come by. With the fracture of the survivors with Holding being our main narrator, this means that we follow him as he goes from group to group. Leaving one group because of a case of cannibalism – we never hear from them again – only for that same fate to follow him to the next.
C: Really sounds like there’s a common factor here. Is Holding going over to a group like going ‘Right lads, let me tell you what those guys are doing, ‘cos you’re going to love this idea!’
A: No, he actually keeps it secret.
C: Ooh! That’s all very psychological games going on.
A: He never tells the officers what happened at ‘the beach group.’
A: Which makes it really difficult to authenticate all of these sources!
C: Very true.
A: By the time that Holding returns to the men he had left after scaling the cliff, it had been over 23 days since any of them had eaten properly.
A: Apart from Holding, who’s had some rotten dead pig.
C: [laughs] Yeah.
A: Long pig, how did we miss that?
A: Focus soon shifts to finding some form of food. This, as the newspaper article states, is mostly limpets, but the odd seabird is collected.
C: Aww, so there are some birds, that’s good.
A: There are some birds – these men are not very good at catching them, because birds so have an added advantage over starving men.
C: [laughing] Over limpets.
A: Also over limpets – they can fly.
C: Do the men have guns and such? Or did those all get lost?
A: No guns.
C: Ooh, okay. That is quite hard, then.
A: When I said that they’d taken ship’s biscuits and salted pork off Invercauld…
C: That’s all they took.
A: That was all they took. Most of the men have even lost their shoes because of the scramble to get to safety – they do NOT have resources.
C: Okay, got you.
A: Well that’s a lie, Holding has a box of matches.
C: Oh yes! Let’s not forget!
A: You will note that when Holding goes from group to group, and he chooses to leave them – which he often does, he goes on walks – when he comes back, he’s like ‘oh, well the people haven’t moved.’ I’m like ‘because you’re the only one with matches, they’re staying by the fire, it’s freezing, we’re in the southern hemisphere, it’s WINTER.’
C: Very good points.
A: So thus, when he goes to the beach, and a fire is lit, that’s only because Holding is there with the matches.
A: Seriously, how no-one mugs him for these matches I don’t know. [C laughs] The little food that was found wasn’t shared out equally between the survivors, nor was it prioritised to either those well enough to hunt or those sick enough to need attending.
C: Was it prioritised at all based on rank?
A: It was prioritised by rank.
C: Of course it was!
A: Officers would order the surviving ship’s boys to fetch them food and water, and inf act they’d insist on drinking water out of the ship boys’ leather shoes rather than fetching it themselves.
C: Ah, classic! Having worked as an assistant before, that is just how it is, right? You know, ‘phone a taxi, bring me water in your shoe!’ [Both laugh]
A: Holding supposed that some of the boys would in fact be worked to death.
C: That wouldn’t surprise me.
A: Spoilers…. yes. [C laughs] And then, the 10 survivors saw a chimney.
C: …okay. A chimney, huh?
A: Almost crueller than a mirage, because they made their way towards this chimney, because a chimney means civilisation…
C: Right, right.
A: This is the remnants of Hardwicke, the failed British colony.
C: [dawning understanding and disappointment for the men] Ooooooh! Yeah.
A: Abandoned, empty and even most of the houses had been completely deconstructed. There was only one still standing as a complete shelter.
C: I guess that’s still useful, but very very disheartening.
A: They set up camp in the one remaining structure, and, um, surprising no one, Holding goes for a walk.
C: It’s what he likes to do.
A: Now, in Joan Druett’s The Island of the Lost, it feels until he goes for a walk until July.
A: I’m gonna put that one down to me not doing words good, as opposed to that actually being what happened.
C: [laughing] Like, ‘I’ve got to get some milk from the store’ and then ‘oh, great…’
A: By the time that Holding does return it is in the depths of winter, and more men and boys had died. And everyone is still at Hardwicke. Whether it was death from exposure or starvation, or just giving up the will, it does feel that it’s only Holding who has determination to keep going.
C: He’s got the matches.
A: He’s got the matches. See, I think this must have made him a little ruthless. He definitely has this ‘every man for himself’ attitude.
C: Yeah, it seems like he’s just sort of wandering around wherever, not really caring if other people are doing well or dying, or…
A: He will share food when he’s hunted it, but he will also just fuck off with the only matches.
A: The discovery of Hardwicke was almost too much for most of the survivors, and it seems like most of the men were expecting help to come, even though it was obvious that the owners of these ruined houses wouldn’t be back.
C: Oh, just sort of clutching at straws.
A: There’s a cat that they see, and for some reason, even Holding is convinced that the owners are coming back.
C: Yeah. Do they attempt to eat this cat?
C: We try our hardest not to blame people for their situations on Casting Lots, but, like c’mon!
A: Eat the cats! [pause] Cannibalism time!
A: Holding – surprise – Smith, and two other men, Fred “Fritz” Hawset and a William “Harvey” Hervey…
C: [laughs] Harvey Hervey, love it!
A: Harvey Hervey, they went hunting for a better camp. They also happen to hunt a seal along the way – finally, some actual meat…
A: And Harvey and Fritz argued, with Harvey shoving Fritz out of the basic brush shelter for the night.
C: Like “Sleep outside…” in the cold…
A: He lands flat on his face and dies where he falls. A few days later, quote, ‘the mate and myself found that Harvey had been eating some of Fritz.’
C: …huh. Fair enough, I mean, we’re at that point. Although wait, haven’t they just caught a seal?
A: The timeline here…
C: Yeah, yeah.
A: However the three men had been living in the same camp for a while, so how it takes a few days to work this out I’m not sure, but at this point…
C: [imitating a survivor accusing another] ‘What’cha chewing on over there?’ [muffled speech through chewing, then defensively] ‘What’re you chewing on?’ [laughs]
A: The survivors are reduced to just four. Holding, who is the only seaman…
C: [trying very hard not to laugh] Yeah. Holding’s…the seaman… [both laugh] …yep!
A: And the officers, James Mahoney, Andrew Smith and Captain Dalgarno. James is unable to walk was tended to by Dalgarno while the others move camp, yet again.
C: Ah well, y’know, that’s just what Holding does.
A: Quote: ‘after a time the captain joined us’ remarked Smith, and Dalgarno said that Mahoney would catch up with them.
C: Ooh, will he??
A: Yeah, he’s dead.
C: [hinting] I mean, is he already caught up to them, in some way?? [pause]…. has he been eaten?
A: He’s not been eaten.
A: He has, however, been left to starve to death alone.
A: What a surprise.
C: I mean, it’s just a waste, isn’t it? Like, not only is it rude, and…
A: [laughs] ‘Rude!’
C: Well no, not only is it a complete disrespect for human life, but like, you’re not even going to…eat him…?
A: Not even going to put him out of his misery, just going to fuck off and leave him to starve to death!
A: Surprise surprise, Holding goes back to see the body. I’m not quite sure why.
C: To look? ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s a body…’
A: And he carves his name and the date of the wreck on a roof slate and leaves it with the corpse.
C: Okay, that’s quite nice.
A: Nineteen of the twenty-five men of the Invercauld survived the initial wreck. Three months later there would only be three survivors. The ordeal of these three survivors, which can only have been made worse by the fact that it seems like none of them could stand each other…
C: [laughing] I mean…are you surprised?
A: Oh just, just you wait, there is a twist in this tale!
C: Ooh, okay!
A: And I know it’s a twist in the tale, but it won’t be what you expect.
C: Okay, ooh, I’m ready for a plot twist now…
A: So the fact that these three men can’t stand each other makes it incredible that they actually managed to build a wickerwork coracle, they are able to ferry themselves over to other islands…
A: An island with rabbits and seabirds, but their ordeal is incredibly protracted. It isn’t until the 20th of May 1865 when Dalgarno, Smith and Holding would be rescued.
C: What year was the original wreck in again?
A: May 1864?
C: Okay, yeah, that’s a nice long time.
A: Over a year later, they are rescued, happened upon by the ship Julian. Notably, they do not look for any of the other survivors.
C: They think they know what happened to them.
A: What about the seven that fucked off to the wreck? They could have been on the other side of the island, it’s quite a big island…
C: Yeah, but if you’ve been hopping around on a coracle, surely you would have seen them within a year, over a year…maybe not.
A: While they made a coracle and moved along the island, they were not going large distances.
A: And while it is incredible they built a coracle, it’s more incredible that they didn’t all die.
C: [laughs] Yeah, okay.
A: Remarkably however, despite over a year on the island, the Invercauld survivors hadn’t been alone.
A: Even though the two castaway crews had never met, there were survivors of another shipwreck on Auckland Island. These two crews had spent a year only 20km apart having very different lives.
C: That’s a very, um…you know how you don’t talk to your neighbours in London?
C: I have no idea who lives in Flat D in my building, you know…wow, okay, so what were the other people up to?
A: On the 3rd of January 1864 the schooner Grafton…Carmella looks so excited right now, it’s amazing—
C: This is a really good plot twist!!
A: The schooner Grafton had been wrecked off the south coast of Auckland Island. Now, allegedly she and her five-strong crew had been hunting for a potential tin mine on nearby Campbell Island. Probably what they were actually doing was looking for profitable sealing grounds. Campbell Island had turned out to be a bust, so they made the regrettable decision to try their hand at Auckland Island before heading back. The Grafton is for once a shipwreck story where they do everything right.
A: And then some. Immediately after she’s wrecked – and luck is on their side, she isn’t sunk after the wreck and her small boat is undamaged – they’re able to retrieve tools, supplies, rope, navigational equipment, spare clothes, salt, an iron pot and, most notably, a gun.
C: [enthusiastic] Yeah!!
A: The wreck is an incredible source for the men, who turn their hand to turning the ropes, sails, planks, and iron of Grafton into their new home. They build a 16 x 24-foot shelter, with wooden walls, a thatched roof, a stone chimney, desks, shelves and even repurposes glass windows salvaged from Grafton.
C: That’s really impressive!
A: They christen their new home Epigwaitt.
C: [laughs] Okay!
A: Each man enters a name, and the name is drawn randomly out of a hat.
C: So they cast lots, but for something very wholesome and cute!
A: They do!! [C laughs] In a mirror opposite to what’s been happening with Invercauld, the importance of good leadership was stressed at every turn by the men of Grafton. In fact, as soon as concerns were raised about the possibility of, quote, ‘bitterness and animosity’, due to the potential disastrous consequences of a potential breakdown of order, a democratic process was drawn up so the men could elect their new leader.
C: Ooh, lovely.
A: It was vital that they could work together because, quote, ‘we stood so much in need of one another.’
C: Very true.
A: The Captain, Thomas Musgrave, happens to be elected leader.
C: Well, y’know, maybe that shows that they had all had good faith in their Captain, he’s already a good leader.
A: But it was the element of choice made all the difference. The men were able to select this.
C: Exactly, yeah.
A: The man who came up with the idea of this choice, and in fact the main person from history that I would want to pick if I could have anyone alive or dead to be stuck with on a desert island, is Francois Raynal.
C: Ooh, a Frenchman!
A: [laughing]…what makes you think he’s French?
A: Raynal is a French prospector turned sailor, and my god, can this man turn his hand to anything. He can be a carpenter, he can be a blacksmith, he can be a cook, he can be a cobbler, he can be a politician…he’s just incredible. Epigwaitt is such an incredible success story when it comes to the type of narratives that we normally come across. Yes, the men suffered and starved – but they also survived and thrived. They hunted seals, they salted their meat to keep over the winter, they tanned their hides to create shoes, they made functional leather, and they used seal skins to clothe themselves. They created thread unspun from sail cloth, Raynal created soap—
C: Wow, Jesus!
A: The men read from their recovered Bible and copy of Paradise Lost…
C: Aw, that’s nice.
A: Bit ironic. Ignoring that fact that some of the books were missing a few pages, but beggars can’t be choosers…they carved a chess board—
C: [laughs] Omigod, that’s so competent!
A: They adopted pets; they had a pair of parrots that they taught to speak English. They had a cat – either a previous wreck survivor or wild descendant from Hardwick. Their cat was tamed, and it stayed with them.
C: Could it be the same cat that was spotted at Hardwicke?
A: It could in fact have been the same cat, the timelines do match up.
C: If only they’d followed that damn cat!
A: A school was set up, with Henry Forges teaching Portuguese, and Alexander McClaren teaching Norwegian in exchange for literacy lessons.
C: Ooh, that’s nice.
A: I don’t know what the fifth and final man George Harris taught, but it must have been something because as Raynal wrote: ‘From that evening we were alternately the master and the pupil of each other. These new relations still further united us; by alternately raising and lowering us one above the other, they really kept us on a level, and created a perfect equality among us.’
A: We know so much about life on Auckland Island because of the incredible 19 months that the crew of the Grafton survived on the island, both Musgrave and Raynal kept journals. They used seals’ blood when the ink ran out.
C: That’s cool. Resourceful.
A: And believe it or not, after 19 months, they decide to rescue themselves!
C: Good for them!
A: In order to build their way out of Auckland Island, first they needed a blacksmith’s forge.
A: They only go and bloody build one! [C laughs] A bellows, a furnace, an anvil, and all.
C: I literally would not know how to create those things, like, even if it occurred me to make these things on a desert island, and even if I know how to get the materials and stuff, I would not know how to construct them.
A: Out of the scraps of Grafton, sealskin and flotsam, hundreds of nails, bolts, blades and carpenters’ tools were made. Raynal is just a superman, it is incredible.
C: […] very Bills and Boons-y…I don’t know what the title of this one would even be.
A: We will link a picture of Raynal in the shownotes. He has quite an impressive moustache.
C: [approving] Ooh!
A: Once it becomes obvious that a whole boat is too much for them to build, they change their plan. They turn to the small boat of the Grafton and adapt her to be seaworthy.
C: That makes sense.
A: They name her Rescue.
A: Rescue sails for five days with Musgrave, Raynal and Alick aboard to Port Adventure, Stewart Island, New Zealand. And then Musgrave returns to Auckland Island as pilot guide to ensure that George and Henry were also saved.
C: How did they decide who went and who stayed?
A: Initially, Musgrave wanted everyone to go. They did a trial run, realised that she couldn’t hold all five of them…
A: One of the men who remained behind, I think it was Henry, but I can’t remember off the top of my head…expressed worry about going out to sea in the open boat, and because Henry and George had got on quite well, it was decided they would stay behind because they were friends.
C: Aw. It shows a real sort of trust in one another though doesn’t it, to say ‘yeah, it’s alright, you take the boat and then you’ll come back for us’ and believe that. It’s nice.
A: And Musgrave is also the only man with family, so he is spending of all of his time…bless him, he’s very depressed. His diaries, he’s like, ‘I am a very sad, depressed man. I have bouts of melancholy; I miss my wife.’
C: I mean…I think only fair, given the circumstances.
A: And still, he insists he has to go back as guide to fetch everyone else. In fact Musgrave was concerned when he saw what he believed to be smoke on Auckland Island, from somewhere other than Epigwaitt…
C: How strange, who could…who…what person with a box of matches could be causing this smoke?
A: Invercauld had already been rescued at this point.
C: Ah! But they didn’t go after those other seven people…? Tell me, who’s causing the smoke, Alix?? I have to know!
A: Well, early spoilers – it doesn’t appear to actually be smoke.
C: Oh, okay.
A: However, Musgrave was so concerned that there could be other castaways that they conduced a search. He wrote, ‘I confess, the doubt torments me. The thought that some poor wretch should be left upon [the island] to suffer what we suffered pursues me incessantly.’ So, if the survivors from Invercauld had followed the cat and had made their way to Epigwaitt, it is undoubted that the crew of Grafton would have tried to ensure their survival, probably at the cost of their own lives.
C: And probably far better than they were themselves ensuring each other’s own survival.
A: Oh, yes. However, when the search is conducted to find these other survivors, they don’t come across any living castaways. They do, however, find a body. And above that body is an inscription, and all that can be read is the name James. This is James Mahoney.
C: Ah, the one Holding went back and did the plaque for!
A: Exactly. Survivors from the two crews never met, although memoirs and newspaper accounts of both disasters were published, and the crew of Grafton definitely learnt of their unfortunate neighbours. The most famous of these accounts that was published was Raynal’s…it’s French, Carmella, if you could do the honours…
C: Les Naufragés – the shipwrecked!
A: This is allegedly the inspiration for Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island.
C: Ooh, fun!
A: However, the longest and best legacy of Grafton and Invercauld was the planting of crops, the releasing of animals, the placing of strong boxes and emergency caches of supplies for castaways on Auckland Island. Marked with, and this is very very nineteenth century: [dramatically] ‘the curse of the widow and the fatherless light upon the man who breaks open this box whilst he has a ship at his back.’
A: These depots did save lives – men from the Derry Castle in 1887, the Compadre in 1891 and the McDonald in 1907. In fact the latest people to be wrecked by the Auckland Islands were a helicopter crew in 2019.
C: Oh, wow!
A: Who were downed near where Invercauld floundered in 1864. They were rescued a day later with no fatalities. And that’s the story of the Invercauld! This episode could so easily have been called A Tale of Two Shipwrecks, [C laughs] or indeed, ‘Two Ships, One Island’ [another laugh] but I’m classy and didn’t want to spoil the surprise of it.
C: No it was a brilliant surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed that!
A: But one thing that was quite wryly amusing in doing the research for this, was quite how much of the research for this episode came from leadership manuals and The City Banker and ‘how to carefully examine the crew that you have on your journey … do you have the skills available to you as a part of the employees you currently have?’ It’s very focused on Dalgarno (bad CEO!), Musgrave (good CEO!)
A: …so the amount of business papers that I have had to read for this episode…omigod, just tell me about the cannibalism, I don’t need to know about stocks!
C: [laughing] Apart from ‘stocking’ up on supplies!
[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]
C: Thank you for listening to today’s episode on the Invercauld. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! I didn’t.
A: It was so hard not to ruin the surprise. Join us next time for the missing lyric in ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.
[Outro music continues]
A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod, and on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.
C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.
A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast, is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley – @Tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram – with audio and music by Daniel Wackett – Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @ds_wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network – search #MorbidAudio on Twitter – and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody – mikaelamoody1 on Bandcamp.
[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]
A: There were a lot of dogs.
A: All of them survived!
C: [Delighted] Ah!
A: Mostly because most of them never interact with people.
C: Cool. They’re just – what, they’re just mentioned?
A: Well, the captain’s dog from one of the shipwrecks is noted as having survived, but fucks off and is never seen again.
C: Ha! Good for him.
A: There are wild dogs on the island which the men all get really excited about, and they fuck off and are never seen again.
A: And then finally, I- Oh, is it a St Bernard? No, it’s a Newfoundland.
A: One guy who- Sir not-actually-appearing-in-this-story, because I don’t mention him by name. Tom Cross. Don’t know why I ignore him. He has a big Newfoundland!
C: [In quiet delight] Awww!
A: And it just- It’s just like, yep, the Newfoundl- The Newfoundland does get bonked on the head by someone trying to hunt a seal. The dog’s helping them hunt a seal-
C: Oh no!
A: And he gets a bit excited and he gets bonked.
C: We’ve all been there.
A: But he’s fine.
C: When you’re in the kitchen and your dog’s under your feet, yeah.
A: Yeah. [Pause] [Laughing] And you’re having to club your own food to death in the kitchen?
A: But yeah, four dogs- At least four dogs. None of them get eaten.
C: I’m- That’s really nice.
A: It’s what you want. Okay, there we go, there’s the little sub-plot about how no dogs are harmed in the making of this story. [Pause] People, on the other hand.
C: [In consideration] Hmm.
A: They’re fucked.