Re: Spelling & Treasure of the Orient for SC Divers ???????

September 25, 2002 at 07:14:51
In Reply to: Re: Treasure of the Orient for SC Divers ???????
posted by laurent bruno on February 04, 2002 at 09:18:54

Subj: nomenclature used in Spence's shipwreck books
Date: 9/25/2002 10:03:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Shipwrex

Dear Laurent Bruno:

Today's spelling "Lorient" for this port is simply a contraction of the original spelling (L'Orient) in use at the time of the loss of the vessel. " L' " is simply the French abbreviation for the French word(s) for "the" - "Le" and "La" (depending on gender) both version's are abbreviated to just " L' " whenever the following word starts with a vowel.

I originally tried to give only the modern spelling of names in my books, and frequently I still do that.

However, in doing my research I found that in some cases several places have the same spelling of their names today, but in the 1700s the variation in spelling could give a serious researcher an indication of which place was meant. This is especially true in the Caribbean.

Towns also moved, were destroyed, abandoned, and/or were completely rebuilt at another location.

The town of Leon, on the St. Marks River in Florida, became a ghost town after a bridge was built below the town. The Whole town was moved to a new location down river, although some accounts still called it Leon, others New Port Leon and finally just Newport.

For instance if one is aware that Charles Town, South Carolina, which was founded in 1670 was moved (about 1670) from its original location near a creek leading into the Ashley River on Albemarle Point, to White Point at the conflux of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers and originally kept the same name, but in the late 1700s officially changed it to Charleston, one might be interpret all accounts of vessels lost at Charles Town to being lost at Charleston. The problem is compounded if the researcher updates the spelling and publishes that in his book. But, there is a Charles Town in Massachusetts. A contemporary account published in a London paper might only state, that "the Good Ship Mary, was lost at Charles Town in America." For mid 18th century wrecks, without further information it would be impossible to know which location was meant. Used together, the spelling in the account and the date of the account become clues. Charles Town in Massachusetts never contracted its name, so after a certain date, there should be no confusion, but this is not always the case.

"lost at Providence" may refer to Providence, Rhode Island, New Providence Island in the Bahamas, or Old Providence Island in the Western Caribbean. Old Providence is now know as Providencia, but their are other places by that name. Only one place is known as "Old Providence," so use of "Old" although no longer correct and certainly not the island's original name, is a very clear reference to that particular island, or at least one of the islands, islets, cays (keys) and/or reefs near it.

A report in "Lloyd's List" of a ship lost "on the coast of South Georgia" led one of the world's leading shipwreck experts to incorrectly conclude that the wreck was lost on Cumberland Island, Georgia. The wreck was actually on "South Georgia Island," an island used as a whaling station down near the South Pole. The natural confusion over names, led him to place the wreck in the wrong hemisphere.

I am sure I have made similar mistakes, but by trying to use original place names and original spellings, it helps keep the record straight.

Just remember, standardized spelling of words, surnames and place names is a relatively recent development. For most of history there was no right or wrong way to spell many proper names or words. Hawthorn, Hawthorne, Cawthorn, Cawthran, Cawthren, and Cauthen name) are actually variants of the same surname. Just as Ivan, Ian, Sean, Shawn, and Jon are all variants of the name John.

The letters I and J were once interchangeable. Because of print and script style the letters "S" and "F" are often confused.

All of the above is why in my books I frequently show several spellings given for a place, vessel name, or captain's name. Because different people reported wreck locations for the same vessel, I try to report all conflicting information. My work should be used as the starting point for research. For instance, I may give one paragraph or page for a wreck, even though my full research on the same wreck may amount to literally over a thousand pages.

Best Wishes,

Dr. E. Lee Spence, President
Sea Research Society
1505 Greenleaf Street, Charleston, SC 29405


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