When Alex Smith's article on Cannibalism first appeared on uk.boats.com, I couldn't bring myself to read it. Obviously (judging by the excellent traffic numbers), our UK readers didn't share my squeamishness. Strange tastes, I thought.

But when I finally did click on the link, I realized it wasn't all ghoulishness. Instead Alex delved into the history, traditions, and—yes—modern occurrences of this final act of desperation. (Final for the victims, anyway.)

Lifeboat full of people

In the wrong circumstances, a lifeboat is a platform full of hungry people surrounded by temptation.

We think of cannibalism as something that happened back in the uncivilized days, before cell phones and the internet. But the most recent documented episode was only a few years ago (2008). Proof that desperation at sea will usually lead to the same conclusion, no matter what life on shore looks like.

Alex also explains the rules of the game, an attempt to make the unpalatable somewhat civilized: mutual consent, eating the dead first. Nowadays you can also expect some jail time, assuming you survive the ordeal (and 'fess up).

It's a fascinating read, as well as a reminder to carry extra water and food—even for that placid afternoon three hour tour. It also makes me realize: maybe we aren't so different from our UK cousins after all.

Read the full story: Cannibalism at Sea: Breaking the Taboo