Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Wreck of the Semillante (Part I)











All we know is that the Sémillante, loaded with troops bound for the Crimea (over 300 men), had left Toulon in bad weather the previous night. Later, things changed for the worse; wind, rain, and enormous seas the like of which had never been seen before....




In the morning, the wind moderated, but the sea was still in a frenzy. On top of that, the devil's own fog descended--you couldn't see a light at four paces. Those fogs, monsieur, you can't believe how treacherous they can be....



…and that morning I noticed a big ship under bare poles, running before the wind blowing towards this island. This ship was coming fast, so fast that he hardly had time to get a good look at her. No doubt it was the Sémillante because half an hour later, the island shepherd heard something on these rocks....






.... Imagine six hundred bodies piled up haphazardly on the beach with splinters of wood and shreds of sail-cloth.... Poor Sémillante.... The sea had crushed everything to such tiny fragments, that the shepherd, Palombo, couldn't find enough good timber to make a fence round his hut.... As for the men, practically all of them were disfigured and hideously mutilated.... it was pitiful to see them all tangled up together. We found the captain in full dress uniform, and the chaplain with his stole round his neck. In one place, between two rocks, lay the ship's young apprentice, open-eyed.... He looked as though he was still alive--but he wasn't. It was fated; no one could have survived.