Thursday, October 16, 2014

Some shipwrecks you probably didn't know about

Design for "La Macrée".  Photo: L'Avantage and Alain Ross.
Shipwrecks, shipwrecks, shipwrecks.  Lately, it's been the lost ships of the Franklin expedition of 1848, especially the lost-no-more HMS Erebus.  Earlier this year, it was the Empress of Ireland, which sank in the lower St. Lawrence in 1914.  And you might recall the ongoing searches for Cavelier de La Salle's Griffon and d'Iberville's Pélican.  In case you haven't had enough yet, let me turn you on to the story of L'Aigle.  Bet you haven't heard about that one yet.

It was in the news this week because a fouresome of artists are currently working on a monument, entitled "La Macrée", to be built in Rimouski.  The local paper, L'Avantage, has the story here.   I quite like the preliminary design, show above.  The challenge will be to raise the $50,000 necessary for its construction.  Money, money, money.

In 1758, following the fall of Louisbourg, France sent a fleet of twelve ships to contribute to Canada's defense against the impending British invasion.  The admiral ship, L'Aigle, with three hundred troops on board, was wrecked at a place called Gros Mécatina along the Basse Côte-Nord, aka. the lower north shore of the St. Lawrence.  The two ships which Intendant Bigot sent to undertake salvage operations met the same fate.  They crashed into each other, actually.  Another ship, which may or may not have been called La Macrée, was more sucessful and managed to ferry the survivors to the small settlement of Rimouski where they spent a difficult winter.

This story is particularly interesting, because -- if I may dig a little deeper than L'Avantage's reporter -- it turns out that it is partly grounded in and clouded by oral tradition.  Well before traces of this event were found buried in the colonial archives, journalist and politician Jean-Charles Taché collected its echo from old timers in his native Rimouski and published it in the magazine Soirées canadiennes in 1865.  Charles Guay's Chronique de Rimouski (1875) republished Taché's text, adding a few other details apparently also drawn from local lore.  These accounts quickly get confusing, but Béatrice Chassée does the best job of untangling the facts and reconciling the archival and oral records in her Rimouski et son île (2003, pp. 32-35, available online here).  Worth a peek, if you like this sort of stuff.

Incidentally, Joseph-Charles Taché was the nephew of Étienne-Paschal Taché, who presided over the momentous Quebec Conference precisely 150 years ago this week.


1 comment:

  1. L’incroyable triple naufrage de 300 soldats français

    Soldat Sanspareil
    Chevalier de St-Véran
    2ème bataillon du régiment de la Sarre
    Vive le Roy!
    François Mitterrand
    Un peuple qui n’enseigne pas son histoire est un peuple qui perd son identité