The Nottingham Galley may mean nothing to you. Or you may think of it and remember the crew members that had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Or perhaps you envision a captain with a reputation of being harsh, cruel and perhaps dishonest. The story has all of that and more.

According to the New England Historical Society, it all began when the Nottingham Galley set sail from London September 10, 1710. At the helm was Captain John Deane. The ship was headed for Boston with stops in Ireland and Canada. The journey began on rather sour note when the captain was heard discussing the large amount of insurance he had on his new galley. This became contentious when the crew almost mutinied because the believed the captain was purposely trying get caught by French privateers. The captain, however, had a reputation for beating his crew members bloody if he felt necessary, so no mutiny occurred.

The Nottingham Galley met its fate on December 11, 1710, when it ran aground on Boon Island during a harsh winter storm. Whether or not this was on purpose still remains up for debate. Some of the crew believed the captain deliberately wrecked the galley still in an attempt to collect insurance.

Fortunately all crew members survived the wreck by they were now stranded on a rocky island no more than a few hundred feet wide and long. They had no rations. No shelter. No fire. To make things worse, they could see the Portsmouth Harbor and watched boats pass by with no help in sight. If two of the crew members hadn’t risked everything to reach the mainland in a tiny raft, all would have been lost. Sadly they were found only after one of the risk takers body was washed ashore.

A boat was dispatched to Boon Island after the discovery of the body. The closer they got made it clear what had happened, especially when they saw the small tent made from the galleys sail. They were able to assist the surviving crewmen and eventually get them back to the mainland. But, before they were rescued January 4, 1711, three crew members had died and in a desperate attempt to some how live, the men decided to resort to cannibalism. To be so close to rescue but so far and to be desperate enough to make that difficult choice boggles the mind. You can still read the captains account, refuted by his crew of course, in his book rumored to exist somewhere.

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