Loss of l'Aimable Marthe returning from Senegal
- Pascal Kainic -
This story is about the loss of L’Aimable Marthe, on the coast of Wales, in the year 1786, from the account of one of the passenger, M. Durand, formerly Governor of Isle Saint Louis :
“I left the Senegal for Le Havre, says M. Durand, on the 24th of July, 1786, on board the brigantine L’Aimable Marthe; the crew consisted of Captain Dore, a Lieutenant, a Carpenter, a Mate and three sailors. The passengers were Messrs. Gourg, Naval Commissioners at Senegal, Longer, Captain of a frigate, Bernard, my cook, a young negro, and myself.
After an uncommonly long and dangerous passage, we were of opinion, on the morning of the 12th September that we should arrive in the course of the night at Havre, in Normandy, and we in consequence gave ourselves up to that pleasure which travelers always experience at the end of a long voyage; when I perceived that the Captain was out in his reckoning, and that we were in the British Channel. I informed him of this circumstance and his surprise was equal to my own.
The weather was stormy, the sea ran high and the rapid gusts of wind indicated an approaching tempest.
At three o’clock, we were in sight of Sundy Island and attempted to take refuge in it, but our effort were unavailing and we then directed our course for the Bay of Tumby which we entered, though here our hopes of finding shelter also proved abortive; and we could not withstand the violence of the wind and tide.
We were however near enough to the shore to observe the inhabitants collecting upon it and expressing their regret that they could not afford us any assistance. We had dropped our anchor, but we were under the necessity of cutting the cable and then, our loss seemed inevitable. We nevertheless attempted to reach the Isle of Caldy and for this purpose, we kept tacking the whole of the night, during which the weather was dreadful, so that it soon became impossible to work the ship.
She therefore ran aground with three violent shocks which laid her open, unshipped the rudder and decided our fate.
We now found ourselves completely wrecked and, in order to lighten the vessel, we cut away the masts, when we found that she remained fixed in six feet of water, but was every instant covered with waves of an enormous size, which were ready to swallow her up. In this dreadful crisis, some fell to making rafts, others seized on pieces of wood and all endeavored to avoid that death which seemed to be prepared for them.
At this period, it is remarkable that some of our little crew were concerned about futurity (we are not surprised that this should appear extraordinary to a Frenchman, but in an English ship it would not have been thought at all extraordinary); and one of them being very anxious respecting the fate of he Negro boy, who had never been christened, baptized him in my presence with some fresh water and then held him fast by the arms with a view that they might die and arrive together in the other world.
About three o’clock the storm began to subside and the waves broke with less violence against our vessel. Without knowing what distance we were from land, we resolved to make an attempt to get to it. A small canoe was therefore let down and I was the first who go into it.
After passing through different depths of water, we at length landed and sent back the two sailors to inform our companions that we were safe and invite them to follow the route we had taken.
On quitting the vessel, we left our clothes and everything on board; we found ourselves in an unknown spot, four in number, almost naked and without the means of subsistence.
The night continued to be very dark and the rain poured down in torrents. We, however, continued to walk for two hours until we reached a mansion and were rescued.
Afterwards, I learnt that the vessel had gone entirely to pieces, but all the crew was saved. The next day, in the afternoon, we were able to retrieve very few things from the wreck; a bag with $ 500 and a box containing my papers which I got dried in the oven. My boy John also saved a bag with nearly £ 1.200, a packet of virgin gold from Senegal, an ape, a yellow parrot and some ostriches’ eggs.
The loss, however, which I sustained by this wreck I shall ever regret, is immense. I lost a choice of collection of plants unknown in Europe, several bottles of distilled palm wine, a collection of the scarcest reptiles, birds, fishes, drawings of costumes, arms equipages etc… of all the hordes in this part of Africa and several tons of the earth from the gold mines at Galam and Bambouk…”
Anyone interested to salvage this genuine unrecovered treasure ?