OTD: French ship ‘Chameau’ sinks near Nova Scotia

On today’s date in 1725, the French wooden sailing ship Le Chameau sank 25 kilometres from Louisbourg, which was then a small French settlement near northeast coast of Nova Scotia.

According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the ship was blown onto the rocks north of Louisbourg the previous day. The museum lists 216 lives were lost.

Divers were sent to search for the wreckage, which was said to include an extensive hoard of gold and silver coins; however, because it was already so late in the year, the wreckage couldn’t be reached until the following summer. After another unexpected delay, the search began in September 1726 but was quickly met with more inclement weather.

This 21.1 gram silver coin depicting the bust of King Louis XIV was recovered from the wreckage of Le Chameau in 1965.

This 21.1-gram silver coin depicting the bust of King Louis XIV was recovered from the wreckage of Le Chameau in 1965 and later sold at an auction in New York City.

‘NEARLY COMPLETE RECOVERY’

According to a letter from the Minister of Marine in 1726, the lost cargo amounted to “83,308 livres 11 sols 1 denier, including 27,258 livres 8 sols 9 deniers expended for clothing the troops at Quebec.” By these calculations, the divers who discovered Le Chameau “had made a nearly complete recovery of the funds shipped on the Chameau in 1725,” according to author and researcher Bill O’Shea.

The tragedy of the wreck of Le Chameau spurred major navigational advancements, including the establishment of Canada’s first permanent lighthouse at Louisbourg. Its lantern was first lit on April 1, 1734.

In December 1971, most of the coins and related artifacts were auctioned off by Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, and some were displayed in the Louisbourg Maritime Museum prior to its closure.

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