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  1. #1

    Mar 2005
    Leominster MA

    Le Chameau 1725 the rest of the loot! Sovereign SEAI Report!

    On the night of 27 August, 1725, the future of Colonial French Canada was dashed to pieces on the rocks off Cape Lorembec, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. On that night the 600 ton, 48-gun pride of the French Naval fleet, Le Chameau, was lost with all of her 316 passengers and what amounted to several years worth of budgeted funds for the French colonies in North America. Not only was this specific disaster a large one in the terms of souls and monies lost, but her passenger manifest was to reflect a virtual ?Whose? Who? of the French Aristocracy within the French colonies in North America. Even after the initial discovery of parts of the wreck during the 1960?s by Alex Storm, very little was actually known about the fateful history associated with this vessel.

    However, from the extensive research we have done in assessing the thousands of recently recovered artifacts we have learned much about the significant consequence that the wreck of the Le Chameau had on the destiny of Colonel French Canada.

    ?Le Chameau was loaded with supplies, money and dispatches. In addition to new recruits for the garrisons - some as young as fourteen years of age - Le Chameau had aboard a number of French civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries, including: the new Intendant of Canada, Me. de Chazel; the Governor-Elect of Three Rivers, De Louvigny . While trying to make the mouth of Louisbourg harbour, Le Chameau was sweep in upon the hard rocky shore. Much of the wreak was washed ashore and was picked up by those sent from Louisbourg. Cast up from the sea were 180 bodies. A burial, en masse, was carried out with the missionary priest at Baleine officiating. There was no sign of the after part of the ship having come ashore, so it was hoped that some salvage might be made of her guns and treasure, particularly as the rock on which she broke up was covered at low tide by only a few feet of water. ... The next season some soldiers who were skilled divers were sent from Quebec and were employed at the wreck." The treasure, however, was not located. The criticism, as may be found in the official correspondence, was that the local authorities waited too long to get proper people and recovery equipment in place, as was apparently available at Quebec?.

    After laying on the bottom of the ocean for 250 years a local diver and entrepreneur named Alex Storm and his associates located the missing "after part" of the ship, which had alluded the French salvors of 1726. They discovered mounds of cannonballs, iron-encrusted artifacts and a few silver and gold coins. After approximately 5 weeks of work on the wreck site, Storm and his associates were able to recover many historically significant artifacts along with approximately 30,000 livres in coins. Most of the coins were silver, but a few hundred of them were gold Louis d?or. In the 1970?s a large segment of the recovered artifacts & coin were placed on auction in New York. What Storm and his associates did not realize was the full extent of just what was onboard the Chameau at the time of her loss. The balance of her million-livre specie cargo was to go undiscovered up to the present time. Captain Robert MacKinnon subsequently filed for and received title of claim to the CBNS-1 site and as President of Artifact Recovery and Conservation, Inc (?ARC?) a wholly owned subsidiary of SVXP continues to oversee the responsibility of recovering and conserving thousands and thousands more coins and artifacts from the Chameau and other wrecks mingled at this multi ship wreck site.

    We have broken down information about the Chameau into the following categories of interest:

    Voyages & Trades
    The Last Voyage from La Rochelle
    The Passengers
    Personal Goods
    Ecclesiastical Goods
    The Cargo
    Known Specie Shipments on Le Chameau

    Voyages & Trades:
    The Chameau was to conduct yearly voyages (which primarily involved the transfer of wealthy passengers & government supplies) from the French ports of Lorient & La Rochelle to Quebec in New France during the years 1720, 1721, 1722, 1723 and 1724.

    According to her various ship?s logs for the period between 1720-1724 1 the Chameau appears to have been exclusive in carrying passengers, government & commercial specie, trade-goods destined for barter with the various Indian tribes in western Canada and an assortment of highly-placed French dignitaries and Church officials between France and New France. The primary port of call was usually Quebec, at that time the Capital of New France.

    The Last Voyage from La Rochelle:
    Since the actual ship?s sea-going logs of the Chameau are not presently available, (these logs were undoubtedly entirely lost upon the wrecking of the vessel in 1725) we can only surmise as to the details. We are, of course, certain of the general nature of her passenger listings and cargo contents; which is referred to in some detail within general correspondence between the officials of New France and their respective counterparts in France. What we do know is that the Chameau loaded extensive ladings of specie, military supplies, trade-goods and commercially-consigned freight at the port of La Rochelle, along with a very distinguished contingent of wealthy passengers. Some of those passengers were very important political appointees for the French colonies within New France. Her sailing schedule called for stopping off at Louisbourg, Cape Breton to off-load a small amount of specie & goods and to deliver the newly-appointed governor of Louisbourg. Once this was completed, she was to proceed into the Cabot Strait and continue her course toward Quebec, where she was to off-load the balance of her passengers & cargo and make ready for an immediate departure back to France with passengers, fur & beaver-pelts, and official mail/correspondence for the French King and various government offices.

    The Passengers:
    We are presently aware of 52 1 st Class passengers, who embarked and were subsequently lost with the Chameau on the night of 27 August, 1725. That list reads? like a ?who?s who? of Canadian French history. Most of the 1 st Class passengers were either highly-appointed French government leaders or high-ranking Military personnel; and in some cases included their family members. Many of these passengers had first embarked on the Chameau in late 1724 from the port of Quebec during their trip from New France to the port of La Rochelle, France. Some were engaged in personal business matters, and others were engaged in the business of the Crown regarding the New France colonies. All, however, were very influential within their respective societies, whether they were affiliated with government, commercial interests or the military.

    Personal Goods:
    There are many references to personal consignments on the Chameau?s final voyage. For example, the letters of minister de Mezy refer to the ?provenance? of certain goods recovered from the surf soon after the loss. In another case, there are references to ?utensils?, or silverware, within these same documents; referring to a shipment of silverware that is monogrammed per-order. The indications given are that these ?utensils? were actually monogrammed with Religious symbols and/or initials of the Church officials of New France. One should also consider the fact that the word ?utensils? also refers to such things as reliquary crosses of the faith, goblets of both silver & gold for ceremonies, and possibly such things as silver or gold candle-snuffers. The full record for these have as yet not been fully analyzed, but it is very obvious that there are many details yet to come forward regarding all of this.

    Ecclesiastical Goods:
    Again, within the various correspondence we find a partial mention of the Church funding requirements for New France. Documents, although not complete, plainly show that the account ledgers record at least 60,000 livres as having been allocated in 1724 for shipment to the Seminaries in New France.

    The French Arch-Bishop also had made arrangements to ship a series of Religious reliquaries to the New France colonies, which were to be escorted and distributed by Friar Chretien, superior of the Seminary at Quebec. We know from the records that one of those reliquary boxes, complete with an ?iron? for baptizing, had washed ashore and was recovered shortly after the disaster. It is assumed that the other reliquary boxes, how ever many there may be, still reside with the wreckage of the Chameau somewhere within the CBNS-1 site.

    The Cargo:
    Despite several minor salvage and recovery efforts in the past, Le Chameau continues to produce volumes of artifacts from it?s huge cargo. Of the military stores known to have been shipped onboard the Chameau as part of the Government cargo, very little is known regarding details. It is obvious that the bulk of these stores consisted of such things as gunpowder, cannon-shot, lead bars and stands-of-arms. It is also possible that various calibers of mortar-rounds may have been included as part of this allotment.

    By far, the most important cargo carried onboard the Chameau at the time of her destruction were the volume of specie shipments shipped on behalf of the French government, the Church, commercial interests and the personal amounts consigned by passengers.

    The exact amounts of personal passenger specie consignments can only be guessed at as there are presently no records available relating to these. There are, however, certain short references to ?specie? from records of correspondence. For example, we know that Msrs. Charon de la Barre of the General Hospital, Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay of the wealthy merchant family at Montreal, Francois Poisset of Montreal and Gabriel Greysac of Quebec, each carried with them large amounts of specie for commercial purposes.

    However, what we can do is refer to the actual ?record? of recorded losses as contained within the various accounting ledgers done up both prior to and after the vessel?s

    loss. These ledgers reflect the following, but are not limited as to total amounts, based on the unknown variables involved:

    Known Specie Shipments on Le Chameau?
    ? ? ?
    1. Funds for the Academy of Sciences in Montreal:? ?61,000. livres
    2. Funds for the General Hospital at Quebec:? ?102,000 livres
    3. Funds for the General Hospital at Montreal:? ?200,000 livres
    4. Funds for the Seminary at Quebec & Trois Rivieres:? ?60,000+ livres
    5. Funds for the Quebec Government
    (loan from the Compagnie des Indes):? ?547,000 livres
    6. Payroll specie for troops at Quebec:? ? 82,010. livres
    7. Funds for the Fortress at Louisbourg:? ?50,000 livres
    8. Funds for the fortresses at Michigan & Quebec:? ?[?]
    9. Funds for Paris pensions for St. Louis holders:? ?48,000 livres
    10. Funds for the Quebec government:? ?289,696 livres

    The documented financial losses involving specie shipments on this vessel minimally consist of a total of 1,439,706. livres, or approximately 1.5 million livres. Add to this the possible personal possessions of the known wealthy passengers, and the as-yet total amounts of Church funding and other government allocations and the grand total of actual specie shipments could well exceed 2 million livres.

    The CBNS-1 site is a treacherous location with many known and as of yet unidentified wrecks. Artifact Recovery and Conservation Inc., a portfolio company of Sovereign Exploration Associates International, has continued successful artifact recovery work the identified wreck of the Le Chameau.


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