01 January 2008

27. The Wreck of the Dumaru by Lowell Thomas (as told by Fritz Harmon)

Thanks to Olman for the recommendation and the present of the actual text! His review is here.

Simply told this is a tale about 32 guys in a 20-man lifeboat adrift in the Western Pacific for 24 days. Fourteen of them survive.

The Dumaru is a wooden supply ship transporting gasoline and munitions from Guam at the close of WW1. After the ship is hit by lightning in a storm it catches fire and explodes. The ship sinks, but not before three life rafts are set adrift. We ride with the First assistant engineer Fred (Fritz) Harmon in an overcrowded life raft. After thirteen days they are out of water and sea biscuits. It doesn't rain, so they rig an evaporator (designed to boil sea water so they can collect the fresh water from the steam that results). As the men begin to die from dehydration, starvation, injuries, and exposure, the survivors make the grim decision to eat the recently deceased by making a broth/stew. Some of the scenes of the cannibalism are quite grizzly - before they decide to actually eat the meat of their shipmate (the former first engineer) they drink his blood mixed with a bit of seawater. To get the blood out of the body the hatchet off the dude's head! One time they do it and leave the head lolling around in the bottom of the boat!

Eventually they land on the island of Samar and are rescued.

I thought this was a great book. It's right up my alley - shipwreck, survival at sea, and the battle between man and the environment and between man and his own endurance. I feel like reading these stories is like research for an eventual test - although I sail in water not much deeper than a good-sized backyard swimming pool and never out of sight of developed civilization.

I'm going to pass this one on to Uncle Jack who is always up for a good sea story.


Olman Feelyus said...

God, I had forgotten how grisly this story actually is. Poor dudes, that was a rough one. Make sure you get the book back from your bro, as I want to pass it on to Doc Holaday when he's done (no rush, though).

Doc Holaday said...

Is this also #1 for 2008? Or are you just sweeping the last crumbs of last year under the rug!

This sounds like a great book. Hard to find, though.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather, Melvin W. Metcalf, was a survivor of the Dumaru.