Series Blog

Cannibalism Ranks High on "Manliest Ways to Die" List

We stumbled upon the blog of one of our Facebook friends, Mac Engel, who yesterday posted an article called "Top 5 Manliest Ways to Go Out..." The blog post was inspired by the recent news of a man being mauled by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The staff here was amused to find that three of the five "manliest ways to die" were the subjects of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentaries:

1. The Men on the Whaling Ship Essex. We told the story of The Essex in Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, which premiered last Spring. The whaleship Essex was sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific in 1819, forcing the entire crew into three small whaling boats. For the next two months, crew members died one by one of thirst and hunger, and the remaining sailors ate the bodies of the fallen to survive. By the time the men were rescued two months later, only eight of the original 21 crew members were alive. To hear the complete story of the men of the Essex, watch the film Into the Deep.

2. The Men of the Lady Bay Franklin and Greely Expedition. This story is told in this past season's film The Greely Expedition. In 1881, 25 men led by Adolphus Greely set sail in the Arctic on a mission to collect scientific data and set a record for the farthest North traveled. Only six returned in 1884, with a story of shipwreck, abandonment, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism. Watch The Greely Expedition online in its entirety.

3. The Donner Party. Eighty-seven pioneers were caught in the snows of the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-7 during a shortcut westward to California. Two thirds of the women and children and one third of the men -- 41 people in all -- died of frostbite and malnutrition. Like the previous two stories, these pioneers also resorted to cannibalism. Watch The Donner Party.

The other two Manliest Ways to Die that made Engel's top five list were the Apollo 1 space mission (to which we dedicate an article to on our "Race to the Moon" website), and Magellan's trip around the world in 1519.

Mac Engel is a sports writer for Fort Worth's Star Telegram, where he publishes The Big Mac Blog. He also teaches at Texas Christian University's Schieffer School of Journalism.



Jim Dunford is the Series Manager at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. 

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