Lost shipwreck found!

No–this shipwreck was not found by underwater archaeologists. The BBC and others recently reported that a literary scholar at the University of St. Andrews discovered the story of the Ecole, a French merchant vessel wrecked off the African coast in 1829, while sifting through the book collection of a nineteenth-century governor of Cape Colony (now Cape Town, South Africa). The 124-page text is believed to be the first book in French and the first travel narrative published in South Africa. Written by Charles-Etienne Boniface, “Account Of The Wreck Of The French Ship The Ecole” recounts the shipwreck and the ensuing three-day trek by the eight survivors over “rough terrain” to the nearest European settlement. Dr. David Culpin expains the book’s significance:

“The text offers an eyewitness account of contemporary Cape Town, and describes places like Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth just a few years after these settlements had been established.”

While this shipwreck narrative, according to Culpin, did not garner much attention in the English and Dutch-speaking colony when it was published, “Account of the Wreck of the French Ship” was part of a prolific nineteenth-century Atlantic World shipwreck literature. Culpin is currently translating the text–with luck it will soon be available in a bookstore near you.


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