The Wreck of the Medusa: The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century
In 1816, the French frigate Medusa, bound for Senegal, hit a reef off the coast of Africa. This book is about the life-and-death struggle of the passengers and crew as they tried to reach safety after the ship sank. Many resorted to murder and cannibalism to survive. In this work set against the backdrop of post-Napoleonic France, we discover that politics played a part in the meaningless deaths of hundreds of crew and passengers.
Miles provides readers with almost fifty pages of endnotes and an extensive bibliography. The author does a fine job describing the travails of the survivors; the best part of the story was how the people who were set adrift on a large makeshift raft fought each other for the remaining food and water. Class struggles and the survival of the strongest ruled. Few survived this ordeal, even after only a few days at sea. I should mention that the disaster inspired several national bestsellers in France, written by survivors, and a famous Western painting (Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa) depicting a scene of the shipwreck.
Medusa: The Shipwreck, The Scandal, The Masterpiece