Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 82 - Alex Storm: Treasure Ship Chameau

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1991/6/1 (2176 reads)
 

by the different values assigned to each type gave us the totals of the recovery. It soon became obvious that we had made a nearly complete recovery of the funds shipped on the Chameau in 1725.... Though our main interest was in coins, many other significant objects were recovered. These ranged from silver forks, spoons and octagonal knife handles to silver sword hilts, buckles and a pair of silver candle snuffers. Artifacts made of brass, broken pottery and glass were not passed up ei? ther, as they too had a story to tell. The most valuable items found included a gold ladies ring, surmounted by a large Columbi? an emerald, and a rare chevalier's cross of the Order of Saint-Louis, thought to have belonged to Sieur d'Esgly, a major at Que? bec. It had been awarded to him on 24 Feb? ruary 1725. He was the only person among the passengers on the Chameau who had been admitted to the Order of Saint-Louis.... From what little evidence remained, it was likely that the boxes containing, the cash had been stored in the lower part of the hold at the stern of the ship, just below the cabins where the ship's officers and highly-placed passengers had been housed. The locker somehow survived the rough journey across the reef, settling over the spot where the coins were later found. El? evated some distance above the bottom, the wooden chests decayed long before the much heavier ship's planking on which they had lain. In time, the planking too gave way, enabling the coins to spill to the seabed below. It seemed the only explanation as to why the coins had spread over an area roughly 40 feet by 20 feet wide, rather than in one neatly rounded heap. When the salvage operations were suspended and the treasure was in safe storage at a bank, we notified the provincial authori? ties under the provisions of the Treasure Trove Act. Dr. C. Bruce Fergusson, the Nova Scotia Provincial Archivist, accompanied by a person familiar with coins, examined the material and a short time later, he cleared the find under the provisions of my licens? es. Keeping the secret to ourselves, howev? er, was becoming difficult, and finally, on 5 April 1966, we released the news.... And so, on 10-11 December 1971, most of the coins and artifacts were auctioned in the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, with the rest sold in private sales. French buyers, appropriately enough, pre? dominated at the three-session auction, taking sizeable quantities of Louis d'Or and silver ecus back to France. Looking back, I could not help but reflect on the Strange twists and turns of history which saw these coins leaving France in the hold of a flute, to return there 246 years later in the belly of a jet airplane. The restless Atlantic still washes over Chameau Rock, and Porto Nova Island presides over the area where the king's ship went to her grave in 1725. but at last the illusive Chameau treasure is a mystery no more. This article Is taken from "Seaweed and Gold: the Discovery of the Ill-fated Chameau, 1961-1971,** an essay by Alex Storm In UCCB Press*s new book The Island: New perspectives on Cape Breton history, 1713-1990, edited by Kenneth Donovan. The is? land Is available in bookstores and gift shops, or by mail from University College of Cape Breton Press, P. O. Box 5300, Syd? ney, Nova Scotia BIP 6L2.328 pages, with Illustrations. Price: hardcover $35.00, paperback $19.95. The only key to trouble-free and long car life is regular and careful maintenance. For over 25 years, maintenance • solely of European cars • has been our occupation. If you don*t wish to maintain your car, neither do we!! If you do, we*d like to help!! EUROCAR SERVICE LTD. 649 WESTMOUNT ROAD SYDNEY 564-9721 Best Western Clapmore 3nn and Conference Centre ANTIGONISH, N. S. (902)863-1050 Indoor & Outdoor Pools / Sauna / Hot Tub / Lteensed Dining Room & Lounge Golf & Tennis Courts: 5 Minutes * Adjacent to Antigonish Shopping Mall 82
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