Thursday, June 17, 2010

Skeletons on the Zahara

I just got finished reading a pretty impressive book. It's a true story about an American ship called the Commerce left America in 1815 to do some trading in Africa. They get shipwrecked on the African Coast at a place called Cape Bojador. It's right on the Sahara. Eventually the crew is all captured by native tribes who enslave them. They're traded, beaten, starved, and suffer hugely through this book until they're finally rescued.
The author took this story from the narratives of the Captain - James Riley, and another from one of the "able seamen" named Archibald Robbins. Incidentally, Riley originally weighed 240 pounds, but at the time of his rescue, he weighed less than 90!
Besides being an amazing story of survival, I was particularly touched by some of the words spoken by a man who was trying to get these guys ransomed. They were running into all sorts of trouble, and Captain Riley, who has been very strong through this whole ordeal is getting frustrated and starting to give up hope. I'm going to just quote directly from the book in chapter 18, pages 281 & 282:
"Vowing to return in four days, Sheik Ali also departed, giving Riley and his men some breathing room to recover their wits and their strength. After coming so close to regaining their freedom, the wait was excruciating. They could do little to help themselves but rest. Bel Cossim tried to buoy their flagging spirits. When Riley complained to him that he doubted he would live long enough to see freedom, as he was 'extremely feeble and must soon perish,' bel Cossim admonished him: 'What! Dare you distrust the power of that God who as preserved you so long by miracles?' And he cajoled: 'No, my friend, the God of Heaven and of earth is your friend and will not forsake you; but in his own good time restore you to your liberty and to the embraces of your family.
"'We must say,' bel Cosim added philosophically, '"his will be done," and be contented with our lot, for God knows best what is for our good. We are all children of the same heavenly Father, who watches over all our actions, whether we be Moor, or Christian, or Pagan, or of any other religion; we must perform his will.' The Moor's tolerant thinking humbled Riley. 'To hear such sentiments from the mouth of a Moor, whose nation I had been taught to consider the worst of barbarians,' he admitted, 'filled my mind with awe and reverence, and I looked up to him as kind of a superior being.'"
Read it, folks!


deej said...

I read this book a couple of summers ago . . . recommended by Adam Christopher . . . loved it, but found it to be incredible! Then it got me going on a reading frenzy of survival books . . . also read Alive, about the soccer team who crashed in the Andes . . . but my favorite is called Follow the River. Oh yeah, and one about a couple who headed to Alaska and some pretty bizarre adventures they had. (Can't remember the name of that one . ..)

Wendy Sue said...

I need to read that book!! I've also read the one Deej talked about... Follow the River, it was an impressive book.

Susannah said...

I'm glad you read it...and like it! It really was incredible.