In the annals of bizarre animal tales, few stories can rival the astonishing events that unfolded aboard the Margaret. This ship embarked on a peculiar voyage more than a century ago, in 1889. Commanded by Captain Sargent, this vessel set sail from Durban, South Africa, bound for Boston, carrying an extraordinary cargo that included cockatoos, snakes, crocodiles, an orangutan, a gorilla, and a menagerie of monkeys and parrots. The following story is an incredible testament to the challenges faced by the crew as they grappled with a chaotic and deadly expedition.
As Margaret embarked on its journey, it was clear that this was no ordinary voyage. While historical records confirm the ship’s and its cargo’s existence, these exotic creatures’ destination remains mysterious. According to an article by Pulling Rabbits, the Sydney Morning Herald dated April 9, 1890, mentioned that the creatures were destined for a museum, yet failed to specify which museum or its location. The ambiguity surrounding their final destination only adds to the intrigue of this remarkable story.
The Cockatoos’ Tragic Fate
Early in the voyage, disaster struck as a horde of rats onboard devoured the grain stockpiles intended for the cockatoos and parrots. The result was a heartbreaking loss, with all but a handful of these exotic birds perishing before the journey’s end. The crew faced the grim reality that their mission had already encountered significant setbacks.
Snakes on the Loose
The chaos escalated when a sudden gale toppled several boxes, inadvertently releasing all of the snakes from their confines. With the ship in turmoil, the crew’s efforts to save the remaining birds were temporarily halted. Simultaneously, the crocodiles seized the opportunity to break free, setting the stage for an unexpected three-way battle between the crocs, snakes, and rats. For a harrowing period estimated at five days, a significant portion of the ship became inaccessible and dangerous.
In a strange twist of fate, the only surviving crocodile met an untimely demise when a second storm struck, causing a crate of goods to topple and crush the reptile. This fortuitous turn of events occurred after the battle between the crocodiles, snakes, and rats had run its course.
Monkeys Lost at Sea
The calamity did not end there. With all the monkeys having managed to escape, they sought refuge in the ship’s rigging, believing it to be the only safe haven. However, a relentless combination of storms, high winds, and colossal waves carried the remaining monkeys out to sea, where they vanished without a trace. Despite the crew’s exhaustion, they could only reclaim four of the monkeys before they were swept away by the unforgiving sea.
The Unyielding Gorilla
Now, one might think the ordeal was finally over, but there was yet another formidable challenge to overcome—the enraged gorilla. Amidst the chaos of snakes, crocodiles, and monkeys, the crew had to figure out how to coax an angry gorilla back into its container. The Wiltshire Gazette reported that the gorilla wielded a formidable truncheon and threatened to harm any sailor who came within its reach. To make matters worse, the gorilla managed to obtain a robust iron rod, escalating the perilous situation.
The only silver lining was that the gorilla remained tethered to the floor, granting the crew some degree of control, albeit precarious. Reports indicated that the crew faced significant injuries as they attempted to return the gorilla to its enclosure. The cook, in particular, suffered severe injuries, including being partially scalped by a crushing blow to the temple. A fellow crew member’s quick thinking saved the cook’s life, as he struck the gorilla over the head with the blunt end of a hatchet, stunning the creature and compelling it to return to its enclosure.
Captain Sargent’s Background: While the captain of the Margaret, Captain Sargent, is mentioned in the original account, his background and experience remain shrouded in mystery. Further research could shed light on his qualifications and what led him to undertake such an unusual expedition.
The Gorilla’s Species: The original account refers to the gorilla simply as a “gorilla.” Identifying the exact species of gorilla could provide insights into its behavior and characteristics during the chaotic events on board.
The Fate of the Parrots: While the cockatoos and parrots suffered due to the rats’ rampage, the specific details of what happened to the parrots are not mentioned. Exploring their fate could offer a more comprehensive picture of the expedition’s outcome.
Monkeys’ Species: Similar to the gorilla, the story refers to the monkeys collectively without specifying their species. Identifying the types of monkeys on board and their behavior during the ordeal would be intriguing.
Origins of the Exotic Cargo: How and where did the exotic animals on board the Margaret originate? Understanding their origins, whether they were captured in the wild or bred in captivity, could illuminate the ethical aspects of the story.
The Decision-Making Process: Who made the decisions during the chaos on board? Were there any notable leaders or individuals who played pivotal roles in managing the crisis and making crucial choices?
Medical Treatment for Injured Crew Members: The injuries sustained by crew members, including the cook who was partially scalped, raise questions about the medical treatment available on the ship.
Surviving Crew Members’ Lives After the Expedition: After enduring such a unique and perilous experience, what became of the surviving crew members? Investigating their lives and whether they continued their maritime careers would offer closure to their part in this incredible tale.
Historical Implications: Did this extraordinary voyage have any historical or cultural implications beyond the immediate events? Did it influence maritime regulations, animal transportation practices, or public perceptions of exotic animals? Uncovering any broader historical context could enrich the story.
The End of an Astonishing Odyssey
The Margaret’s extraordinary voyage, filled with bizarre creatures, chaotic battles, and unexpected twists of fate, serves as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of the crew. While the final destination of these exotic animals remains a mystery, their journey has left an indelible mark on maritime history. The saga of the Margaret’s menagerie is a story like no other, a true adventure on the high seas that defies belief and captures the imagination.