4. Alexander Scott
One of the most dangerous sailing routes of the 19th century took ships between the Canary Islands and the western coast of Africa. Challenges along this route included strong currents blowing toward shore, sandy air, and shallow water. Shipwrecks were common.
Alexander Scott was a 16-year-old sailor from Liverpool, England, whose ship, the Montezuma, was wrecked off the Saharan coast in 1810. According to his own narrative, Scott was captured by an Arab tribe, which took him as a slave. They forced him to travel with them to a place called Hez el Hezh. The arduous journey across the Sahara took over two months, during which Scott encountered very little in the way of civilization.
When they arrived at Hez el Hezh, Scott was told that he must convert to Islam or be killed. Scott said that he refused to convert, although he didn’t say how he managed to escape being killed. Although he remained alive, Scott was anything but free. He remained a slave for six years, wandering with various Arab tribes around present-day Niger and Mali in conditions that were often difficult and dangerous. Eventually, Scott managed to escape and contact the British consulate in Morocco.
3. Wreck Of The Medusa
In 1816, the French ship Medusa was sailing for Senegal on a diplomatic mission. Included among the 400 passengers and crew were many notable French politicians, soldiers, and diplomats. However, for some (really dumb) reason, the French selected an inexperienced captain to command the ship, and the Medusa soon ran into trouble.
Despite clear weather and calm seas, the Medusa ran aground on a reef in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew was forced to abandon ship but didn’t have enough lifeboats to go around. The most important passengers got into the lifeboats, and the remaining 150 were forced to float on a raft made of lashed-together masts and beams.
The situation on the raft was grim. First, the lifeboats tried to tow it, but they ended up having to cut it loose. The raft was also too heavy, so food and other supplies had to be thrown overboard. Even then, the raft remained submerged under as much as 1 meter (3 ft) of water. The first night on the raft, 20 people were either killed or committed suicide, and by the fourth day, food had run out and the survivors had to resort to cannibalism. When the raft was finally found after 15 days at sea, fewer than 15 men remained alive.