In August 1710, the Nottingham Galley set sail for New England. It did not reach its destination, as fierce weather struck and the fourteen men on board were shipwrecked on Boon Island, a sparse 100yd stretch of rock. Without food or adequate shelter, they were uncertain when or if they would be rescued. Two men died of exposure; two more perished in a failed attempt to reach shore. As the situation became more perilous, Captain John Deane gave the order to butcher and eat a deceased member of the crew. This bold decision fended off starvation and sustained the crew until their rescue.
John Deane emerged an unlikely hero. But shortly afterwards an alternative version of events began to circulate. The first mate, Christopher Langman, painted Deane as a violent fraudster, a tyrant and an enthusiastic consumer of human flesh. The scandal forced Deane to flee his homeland and begin a life of misadventure that saw him fight as a mercenary for Peter the Great and spy for Robert Walpole.
The Shipwreck Cannibals tells the story of a scandalous and grotesque forgotten episode in British maritime history and its bizarre aftermath.