Oceanography Books

Le Chameau Shipwreck

Le Chameau: a 44-gun, 600-ton, French man-of-war, the pride of the 
French navy, "one of the fastest and best equipped line-of-battle 
ships in the royal navy of France". On August 27th, 1725, in a storm 
off Cape Breton, while trying to make the mouth of Louisbourg harbour, 
Le Chameau was swept in upon the rocky shore. Reports of wreckage 
at Kelpy Cove, just south of Louisbourg, brought officals out to 
make a gruesome discovery. The entire length of the cove was strewn 
with bodies. Wreckage, including a carved camel (the Chameau's namesake 
and figurehead), littered the coast for miles. All of the 316 people 
aboard had perished. Much of the wreck 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 employed at the wreck. Salvage work began almost at once, 
directed by Pierre Morpain, a famous French privateer, but the treasure 
eluded them. With only grease on their skin and rations of chocolate 
to protect them from the cold, they couldn't locate the main portion 
of the wreckage. For years afterwards, legends of the treasure lingered: 
glimpses of silver and gold in crevices and tales of lobster fisherman 
pulling up a few handfuls of coins. The treasure, however, was not 
located at the time. 

In 1961, a discovery of cannons scattered on the sea bottom 
alerted Alex Storm, a diver working part-time on a fishing trawler 
from Louisbourg. Braving the dangerous tides and freezing waters 
at Kelpy Cove, Storm carefully mapped the wreckage of the 
Chameau to locate the treasure compartment. 
Storm's discovery triggered a rising interest in the wealth of 
shipwrecks off Nova Scotia's waters and brought legislation to 
protect them. Today a steadily increasing number of divers flock 
to Nova Scotia, although most are seeking adventure, not 
treasure. 

It is interesting to note that Le Chameau went down in a storm in 1725, 
that the first person to attempt salvage in 1726 was named Tempete, or 
"Storm", and that she was "raised" by Alex Storm in 1965, more than two 
centuries later.
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