Pirates of the Channel Islands: A £200m treasure hunt
- On 13/06/2008
- In Treasure Hunting / Recoveries
From the Independent
Laden with jewels and treasures plundered from Madagascar, the French galleon La Vierge du Bon Port was barely a day from home and safety on 9 July 1666, when it was attacked by British privateers off the Channel Islands.
It was a testimony to the value of the French vessel's cargo, and the greed of its captors, that 36 English sailors drowned while trying to drag the riches from their sinking prize.
The loss of La Vierge, the pride of the newly-founded French East India Company, along with two more of the four vessels in its flotilla ended the ambitions of Louis XIV, the Sun King, to turn Madagascar into one of the first colonial possessions of France.
>The ship's booty was valued at £1.5m at the time and included gold, silver, spices and ambergris, the waxy discharge from sperm whales that was prized as a base for perfume. In modern terms, its value could be as much as £200m.
A report of the arrival in Guernsey of the Orange, the vessel that sank La Vierge, said: "Here arrived His Majesties Shipp the Orange whoe having ben in fight with a French ship, which came from the Isle of Madagascar, very richly laden upon account of the East India Company of Fraunce, her ladinge did consist of cloth of gold, silk, amber grease, gould, pearls, precious stones, corall, hides wax and other commodities of great value."
La Vierge would enter the ranks of near mythical "El Dorado" wrecks that have been the subject of swashbuckling stories and, more recently, attempts by a new generation of controversial salvage companies to pinpoint their watery resting place.