Not much is known of Nathaniel Murdock. Most stories about him read like fiction. The kind of yarn spun late at night on deck to amuse a fellow sailor. One story is that he killed 47 men in one night with only his sword to prove a point. It is rumored that he was born to an aristocratic family but was disowned when he took up pirating. Another tale is that he sailed with Captain Morgan for several months prior to Morgan’s death.
One rumor partially rings true as there is corroborating evidence. The adventure tells of a First Mate marooned, not on a island, but miles from the sea. Angered by a failed mutiny Captain Andrews and his men sold Murdock to traders or slavers outside of a small coastal town in Morocco. The traders traveled inland to Algeria where Murdock escaped. The story goes that he trekked across the Tanezrouft Desert. This barren plain is located along the borders of Algeria, Niger and Mali west of the Hoggar mountains. The area is known for aridity and extreme heat. The high temperatures in summer can easily reach 52 °C (125.6 °F) or more! It is one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert.
Months later Murdock appeared in a small fishing village along the coast of the Western Sahara. He was accompanied by an African painted dog or wild dog.
From a local fisherman’s diary:
“He appeared out of the dust. His clothes were of the sea but they were tattered and torn. He was covered from head to toe in sand as if it were a part of him. If he had not been walking I would have thought him dead. His eyes seemed quiet and still but behind them there was a madness; a fire burning in his brain. He did not speak for a long time instead he stood and stared at us. We continued our work but it was difficult as no one wanted to take their eyes off of him for fear that he would attack us. Standing to his side, just as still, was his companion. A wild dog covered in different colors.”
A year later Murdock turns up in Durban where his name appears on a crew list as a merchant seaman aboard the Misiano. The Misiano is bound for Buenos Aires which coincidentially are the exact waters where Captain Andrews has been rumored to be pillaging.
In a tavern in Buenos Aires the crew of the Moonflower encounter a mysterious rum merchant. He is accompanied by a strange looking dog. After several drinks including some samples a trade is arranged: several cases of rum in exchange for passage to Purto Seguro. The deal is a very lucrative one as the rum is expensive. Not wishing to lose sight of their catch the excited crew immediately escorts their passenger and his fine drink back to their ship.
In the small hours of the night the alarm of fire is given but few answer the call. The crew of the Moonflower are drunk and most have passed out. A few sober men leap into action desperate to extinquish the flames that are quickly overtaking the forward hold. During the mayhem, the mysterious passenger slips into Captain Andrews’ aft quarters unobserved.
Amidst the comotion a scream is heard. Several of the drunken crew are now roused. They move to Captain Andrews’ quarters but find that the hatch has been jammed. Eventually they tear open the door but are greeted by flames. Beyond the wall of fire they see Captain Andrews. He stands chained to a post. The flames surround him. The men choke and are driven back by the ever increasing smoke.
Fearing that the fire will eventually reach the gunpowder reserve the crew begins to abandon ship.
“Wild flames danced across the decks and around the masts until they were transformed into billows of black smoke. The deafening crackle of the splintering timbers ground against our ears. But the most terrifying sound was the scream of terror that eminated from within the ship itself. This cry rose above all of the noise and stretched across the waves all the way to the shore.”
Then just as the sea began to swallow the Moonflower and its Captain the sky was lit up like day. The flames had finally reached the gunpowder hold exploding the ship into thousands of pieces skyward.
Witnesses report that the crew scattered ashore but that one lone man swam in the opposite direction against the tides to the far shore. Standing on the rocks, silhouetted against the fiery display stood a large dog awiting his arrival. They disappeared into the night.
Murdock eventually captures a schooner with a small crew. From there he begins to wind his way up the Pacific Coast. Evidence of this is spotty but Murdock is referenced in a few journals. It is suggested that for a brief time he worked in partnership with a local Governor.
It is there that his story seems to end. In the dead of night Captain Murdock and his crew are ambushed and after a brief battle on deck Murdock falls dead.
However, there are reports of Captain Murdock after these entries. There are stories of his appearances in Jamaica, Matazlan, San Patricio and even Tijuana. And his persona seems to get mixed up with a Frenchman Bouchard who terrorized the California coast.
So it is unknown if he met his demise that night or if he is still at large.