One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

4th June

The Raft of the Medusa.

I have been fascinated by this painting ever since I discovered it through one of the most interesting Wikipedia pages of all time: Incidents of Cannibalism.

As horrible and terrifying as these stories are, when people are forced into such dire circumstances its as if an incredibly truthful mirror is held up to humanity.

The story of the Medusa follows the classic "survival of the fittest" plot that most of us accept as "nature's way". After the ship was wrecked, the 150 passengers on the unstable raft were left to drift when captain decided to cut the tow ropes. Seeing that they had been abandoned, panic took hold on the raft, fights broke out and the weak were thrown overboard or eaten by the strong. Ten days later when the raft was spotted by a passing boat, only 15 people remained.

It would be frightening to think that this example is humanity's only response to a situation of scarce resources, especially when today's media is so fond of reminding us about how little drinkable water and arable land we have left. But the Medusa is only one story of cannibalism. Luckily, we live in an age where we can easily learn about others like that of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.

Unlike the story of the Medusa which is trapped in the past, some of UAF Flight 571's survivors (like Robert Canessa) are are still alive today. They are living proof that humanity (and therefore nature) has other ways of responding to scarcity. UAF Flight 571 is testament that "survival of the fittest" is not the only option.

If I could live a thousand lives, one of them would be as a painter. Sarah and Irene have both told me that a canvas on the scale and with the mastery of Gericault's would be a massively time-consuming and expensive undertaking, but it wouldn't matter: I would have my whole life to paint the UAF Flight 571 with enough beauty to have it hang in the Louvre right beside Le Radeau de la M├ęduse.

You never know when life might cut you adrift. If it were to happen to me, I would feel much more at ease if my crew-mates had seen both paintings.