(Article by Marc-André Bernier)
(Extracted from: La revue d'histoire de la Côte-Nord, Numéro 28, Société historique du Golf de Sept-Îles, Mai 1999)
The King’s ship Le Corossol “resurfaced” when the diver Richard Taschereau fortuitously discovered its vestiges in 1990 in the bay of Sept-Îles. Although the ship had never disappeared from the collective memory of Sept-Îles, where an island and a street bear its name, few people really know the history of this ship. In fact, even if certain media then had rigged the loss of the Corossol the title of "the most famous shipwreck of New-France", it rather quickly became obvious that one knew very little of this ship as well as the circumstances surrounding its disappearance.
The archaeological work carried out by Parks Canada in 1991 and 1994 made it possible to determine that the extent of the vestiges of the Corossol was relatively limited: eight canons, about sixty balls and some scattered objects of metal, the majority imprisoned in matrix limestones called concretions by archaeologists. The very hard bottom covered with immense stones, the shallow depth, violent storms and the movement of the ices left only few chances of survival to organic materials such wood, leather and hemp.
If the discoveries were rather limited to the archaeological side, parallel research carried out in files made it possible to substantially increase our knowledge of the ship itself, its career and its misadventure in New-France. At the time of the discovery, information of the shipwreck was limited and drawn mainly from a few documents that Jean Lafrance had presented in his book Les épaves du Saint-Laurent (1650-1760)1. In this book Lafrance offers us only one of the three documents published in the bulletins Recherches historiques which he uses2.
This article updates our knowledge of the history of the Corossol. It presents the whole of the texts, some already known, other news, which inform us about the career and the tragic end of this ship whose wreckage became an important national historical site in 1995. From time to time, the information collected during archaeological work will come to support and confirm the archival data.
The name of the Corossol3 appears in the list of the King Louis XIV’s ships4 which justifies King’s Ships which appears regularly in the texts. We learn in these documents that the Corossol was initially a Dutch ship, a pinnace (small boat) of 200 tonnes. In France, at the end of the seventeenth century, a pinnace was a ship generally varying between 150 and 250 tonnes and used in trans-atlantic5 trade. The French captured this small boat in February 1692. At that time, France had been at war for almost four years with a coalition of European countries known under the name of League of Augsburg and to which Holland was a part. This conflict, which did not end until 1697, rose from the capitulation of Jacques II of the throne of England by William III (William of Orange). The spoils of war were frequent and the captured ships either were usually sold, and the profits sent to the King, or simply renamed and integrated in the ranks of the Navy of its new owners. Such was the case of this Dutch pinnace which soon adopted the new name of Corossol. This rather uncommon name, that of a covered tropical fruit of spines could explain that one simply desired to transform the original name which seemed to have been Curaçao.
The origin of the Dutch ship is confirmed by archaeology. Two of the eight canons found at the site have been studied in detail. Their forms and their mouldings correspond to those of the Dutch canons of the seventeenth century6.(Figure 1) The letter "G" that one sees in a clear way on the pivots of the two guns could be the mark of the tradesman of Amsterdam Louis de Geer, owner of foundries in Sweden7, but this assumption remains to be confirmed. For this period, it is not surprising to note that one preserved the pieces of artillery of captured ship, especially in the case of Dutch canons counted among the first suppliers of the Royal Navy8.
Drawing of a Dutch canon found on the Corossol site.
(Drawing by Carol Piper, Parcs Canada)
In the list of vessels of Louis XIV, the Corossol appeared as a fire ship of 20 guns. This nomenclature was, initially, affixed with: "filled up with inflammable material and intended to clutch and to burn themselves along the edge of enemy vessels."9 However, to judge some by the uses made of the Corossol and other ships appearing in the lists of the vessels of the Sun-King, it seemed it became a category for a variety of ships, of which it once was a spoil of war. In regards to the twenty canons, we will see further the real agreement with the archaeological vestiges.
Very little is known of the first year of life of the Corossol in the Royal Navy. One sees it for first time in an undated letter from the minister to the intendant of the Navy:
“I was very angry to learn of the accident that happened to the ship L’Indiscret, I approve of the measures which you took to replace it, and also the ammunition which was lost. Please let me know if you could have recovered it. It would be extremely frustrating had it sank in the middle of the river. The intention of the King is that the ship Le Corossol renders the service to which the ship l’Indiscret was intended for Canada, also his Majesty wishes that officers who are to embark on l’Indiscret embark on it, and that you will put on the Fleur de Lys what was to go on the Corossol, and for these changes it will be necessary that you provide it with some canons.”10
It seems that "the service in Canada" which was intended for l' Indiscret consisted in accompanying the Poly commanded by Pierre Le Moyne Iberville to the Hudson Bay in order to precede the English competitors at Fort Nelson11. According to directives in this document, the Corossol would have replaced the Indiscret on its mission with the officers of the latter. It is not clear in the text if "the increase in the canons" was intended for the Corossol or the Fleur de Lys, however it undoubtedly never took place since the Indiscret seems to have recovered from its incident to finally accomplish the voyage in 1693 to Nouvelle-France. The mission to Fort Nelson was cancelled following its late arrival in Québec.
A letter from the intendant Bochart Champigny in Pontchartrin, on 12 August 1693, tells us that the Corossol belonged to a fleet of twelve vessels which arrived at Québec at the end of July 1693, bringing along with it 500 new soldiers:
“The ships the Poly, the Indiscret, the Corosol, the Bretonne, and the Fleur de Lys arrived in Quebec at the end of July with the four commercial ships which departed la Rochelle with them, the Impertinent, the Perle and la fille bien aimée who arrived a few days later are all the vessels which we have learned that left France for this country. I will discharge all the food, goods and ammunition that the King had the kindness to send us, all of which, Monseigneur, I will render account to you after all has been done.
I am very humbled by his Majesty and the country is obliged not only for the food, merchandise and munitions sent but also for the sending of five hundred recruited soldiers which is a formidable security for our colony at a time when we need all the strength against our enemies, which leads me to believe Monseigneur that you have honoured Canada with a very special protection. These young recruits are fine Young men and they will adjust to the country and will eventually provide a needed service. A few have died during the crossing, over a hundred were sick including some of the sailors, however the care we could provide them at the Quebec hospital will ensure us that we will only lose a few.”12
Pierre Lemoyne Iberville assumed command of this fleet. We don’t know the precise departure date from France, however it seems that it was about mid april13. The difficult crossing noted by Frégault14 is certainly confirmed by the length of the crossing, that is to say approximately three months: an average crossing is about sixty days15. The ships which made this contingent were thus: the Poly, a vessel of 4th category of 450 tons armed with 40 cannons and on which Iberville was on; l'Impertinent, a fire ship of 200/260 tons armed with 28 cannons; the Bretonne, a warship of 350/400 tons armed with 26 cannons; the Indiscret, a fire ship of 257 tons with 20 cannons; the Fleur de Lys, a warship of 200 tons with 10 cannons; the Perl, a boat of 50/85 tons with no cannons; the Fille Bien-Aimée for which we have no information16.
The period of war in which France was involved in explains the need for the trading vessels crossing the ocean between the motherland and her North-American colony to travel under escort. Since the taking of Québec in 1690 by Sir William Phips, the English had chosen a strategy of interception at the entrance to the gulf of St. Lawrence. Besides, Frontenac had regularly asked the minister to send frigates to him "to clean" the gulf entrance of English corsairs. The majority of rare recovered objects from the site of Corossol are of a military nature: cannons, cannonballs, hand grenades (Figure 2), balls, and ramming balls. It is obvious that these objects survived because they were metal, however it is interesting to note the diversity from such a small sampling. The hand grenades constituted a notable discovery, even if they are not uniques17. It is interesting to note the dimensions of the wood rockets, the wood cylinders which allow ignitions, correspond precisely to the standards of the artillery of the French era as presented in the Memoire d’Artillerie de 170218.
Hand grenade broken in two: one sees the wood fuse well used to light the powder in the interior of the grenade.
(Photo: George Vandervlugt, Parcs Canada)
The crossing of the fleet of 1693 was not without stories, at least for the Corossol under the orders of Sir Robert, as stated in the rest of Champigny’s letter dated 12 August 1693 :
“Sr d'Iberville, at four hundred and fifty leagues from France took a small English vessel which was heading towards London filled with a cargo of tobacco leaves from Virginia having passed by Baston, he brought it to Quebec.
Sr Robert, commandant of the Corosol, escorted in the fleet took, at nine leagues from Newfoundland, a small caiche (ship) loaded with molasses, beer and flour which came from Baston and was heading for the coast of St.John’s Newfoundland, this naval vessel was subsequently brought to Quebec. I followed the procedures of this and that and I will do the judicial process in favour of his Majesty.”19
The judicial process for both of these ships took place in November 1693:
“I am sending you your majesty the procedures and judicial processes for the vessel the "Marie Sara" approximately 90 tons filled with Tobacco and the Quaiche approximately 18 tons filled with flour, [... ], molasses, beer and bad biscuits of which I summoned in my letter to you of twelve August last, with original papers which were in the said vessel at the time of its capture and not found in the other ship. We judged Mr. de Frontenac and me that this vessel could not carry the sail and released it [... ]ey, It was allocated for 2962[... ] 101 with the Sr Lazeur who has intentions to begin an Establissement of fishing in this River, the Quaiche will be useful to carry masts and for the transport of “partie des vivres”, and ammunition from one place to another. It was estimated by four experts 1200[...].”20
The Corossol stayed at Québec for three months. On the 7 November, it set sails for France with a group of ships, smaller this time, once again under the command of Iberville. He passes on to us, in letters written on his arrival in France, details on the composition of his fleet and its voyage. He wrote the first letter, dated in 1693, in the "basin of Beslisle";
"We left Quebec on 7 November, the King’s six vessels and the Sainte-Anne, we could not make the crossing but on the 14 and left the bay on the night of the 268, the Corrossol, the fleur de lys and the Impertinente separated from me during bad weather in the river we have suffered badly from the awful weather. Its [... ]to learn to have left so late. We could [... ] have lost for having left so late."21
It is quite obvious from this message that the fleet was confronted with the bad weather. Iberville partly blames the date of the departure from Quebec. Though such a date was not necessarily unusual for the returns to the old continent, it is true that it was late. Indeed, if mid-November constituted about the limit for late departures to France, the majority took place within the last fifteen days of octobre.22
A second letter, on 16 December, gives us more details on the composition of the fleet and its cargo.
"I do it [at the moment] from the Bellisle basin, where I have just anchored with the Bretonne, L'Indiscret and the Saint-Anne du Nord, Le Corossol, l'Impertinent and the fleur de lys were separated from me in the bay of Canada because of bad weather. I left Québec with five of the King’s vessels and the Sainte-Anne, on 7 November and could not cross the Cape Tourmante until the 14 and exited the bay of Canada the 26 in the evening when I had wind and snow, the King’s vessels were filled with beaver and pelts, there are many masts in la Bretonne..."23
The King’s Vessels which were part of the fleet were thus, other that the Poly on which Iberville was on, the Bretonne, the Indiscret, the Impertinent, the Corossol, the Fleur de Lys. A merchant vessel, Sainte-Anne-du-Nord, accompanied them. Except for the Bretonne which transported masts, the King’s Vessels transported pelts. One of the objects found at the site of the Corossol soon after its discovery testifies to this cargo: a lead seal for fur bundles. (Figure 3) On the reverse one can see a beaver under a sun. A partly readable inscription girds this image. One recognizes the letters "INE SERVA*RY". On the back, a coat of arms, clearly visible, shows three lily flowers as well as the word "CANADA". The coat of arms seems to be surmounted by a crown, but this part of the seal is badly damaged. To our knowledge, no other seal of this type exists. The coat of arms with the three lily flowers indicates French origin. The beaver refers obviously to the fur trade while the sun probably represents the Sun King, Louis XIV.
A fur bundle lead seal found by Marc Tremblay soon after the discovery of the vessel.
(Drawing by Carol Piper, Parcs Canada)
The Corossol also transported some notable passengers of which Élizabeth Auber, Jean-Baptist-Louis Franquelin’s wife. He was the King’s first hydrographer to be established in New-France. Franquelin had to turn to France in November of 1692 leaving in Quebec his wife and their thirteen children24. After months of requests to the King, he obtained in 1693, the return of his family at the expense of the Crown. At last Élizabeth Auber embarked on the Corossol, accompanied by several of her children:
"Sr Franquelin [... ] hydrographer having taken resolution to remain in France the Jesuits Fathers agreed to take care of Instruction in his place, and started last year if the Sr Franquelin does not come by again. I request from you Monseigneur that you Employ in his place in the expenses of the Estate for the 400[... ]24 granted by his Majesty if it is agreeable, I have accorded his wife and his family to go to France on the Vessel the Corossol which is necessary for the crossing such as you have ordered me to do."25
The difficulties of the fleet started on their arrival in the Cape Tourmente, very close to Quebec, where the ships waited one week on standby for favourable conditions. The passage of the "Baye of Canada", in the St. Lawrence gulf, seem to have been particularly difficult, snow and head winds dispersing a part of the fleet, of which the Corossol. Iberville left on the 26 of November. The "basin of Beslisle" from where he wrote, does not correspond as thought of by Frégault26 to the strait of Belle-Île which separates Newfoundland and Labrador, but to the French island Belle-Île located at the wide area of the crossing. Indeed, as he wrote on 18 of December, Iberville specifies to us that he had already left the gulf of St. Lawrence on the 26 of the previous month. This assumption confirms to him a crossing of 41 days (approximately 35 if one omits the wait in Cape Tourmente) which corresponds to the average of 36 days evaluated by Proulx27. Nevertheless, he saw the Corossol for the last time in the gulf of St. Lawrence.
In Quebec as in France, the whole winter went by without any news of the Corossol. At the beginning of May 1694, one learned of the sad news and its fate when a few survivors returned to Québec. At once, Frontenac launched an expedition in order to recover as much as possible from the wreckage:
"the King’s ship the Corossol was lost due to bad weather at the 7-isles 80-leagues from Quebec. Only a few survived some sailors, the first pilot and the writer who wintered on the area. We had sent in the spring a boat and a brigantine, commanded by Sr of Baubassin lieutenant who carried out very well his responsibilities and made what was possible even during the strong gusts of winds, his diligence was worth his efforts and he reported to us what he had salvage from this vessel which you will note in the memo Sr of Champigny sent you in the letter particularly on the subject of the inquest he carried out on the wreckage."28
According to an anonymous text, there were ten or twelve survivors:
"A large fleet came to Quebec commanded by Mister Iberville. On its return, the vessel Caralot, perishes on the Sept Isles. Ten or twelve men were saved and later came to Québec."29
Those who escaped death wintered in Sept-Îles where a trading post had been established since 167l30. Although this trading post was destroyed by the English in 169231, in 1693 some structures undoubtedly remained to accomodate the survivors. All other members of the passenger group perished, including Élizabeth Auber and her children who accompanied her. Although the exact number of her children who perished at the time of the shipwreck is dubious, it seems Élizabeth Auber was accompanied by eight of them: Élizabeth, Charles-Bertrand, Anne, Françoise, Louis and Anne-Agnes Chesnay, resulting from a first marriage, Marie-Jeanne and Geneviève resulting from her marriage with Franquelin32.
The sieur of Baubassin, lieutenant of the Navy, commanded the rescue expédition launched by Frontenac. The boat accompanying Baubassin’s brigantine belonged to the sieur Levasseur. On board was François Poisset. His declaration in front of a notary on 20 May 1694 indicates to us that Poisset:
"... quickly embarked without delay on sieur Levasseur’s boat, who was a navigator of this country, to voyage to a place called the Seven-Islands on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river, where the King’s ship named the Corossol commanded by the sieur Robert which came last year from France in the basin of this city perished on its return trip to France last fall, to see and examine (from the report which was made by some of the sailors from said ship that were saved from the shipwreck and had come to this city at the beginning of the present month, and that largest part of the desbris of the said ship and even that of what was loaded on it were thrown by the agitation of the sea along the coast of the said islands and even along the landlocked areas) if it was possible to recover some of the effects, pelts and other things and in particular the sums of money that sieur de Faye, his brother-in-law had taken with him on said ship last fall, which was extremely considerable and which belonged to the company between sieur de Faye and sieur Rurault, merchant, and to make every effort and to take all the possible care to avoid any loss in the recovery of some of the of the parts."33
Poisset made the voyage in order to recover the effects of his brother-in-law, sieur Jacques de Faye, a businessman from Québec.34
The rescue expedition ran into many difficulties because of bad weather, but it had a certain success. Unfortunately, Champigny’s list of recovered objects attached to Frontenac’s letter to the minister Phélypeaux, previously quoted did not survive. On the other hand, Frontenac and Champigny announced in their summary of activities for the year 1694 the attempt at the rescue of the Corossol, and mention certain recovered objects:
"They sent to the seven islands where the Corrasol was lost the preceding year a boat and a brigantine to recover the debris, they sent verbal notification of the wreckage interrogations and inquests there were twelve canons saved and four anchors."35
During the archaeological work, eight canons were found on the site of the Corosssol. In adding this number with the 12 canons recovered in 1694, one obtains 20 canons, which corresponds exactly to the armament quoted in the list of Louis XIV’s Naval ships36. The canons found on the site correspond to weapons of two different calibers: one or two pounds and three or four pounds. However, several of the balls observed correspond without any doubt to larger calibers (up to 12 pounds). It thus seems that among the canons recovered in 1694 one counted parts of calibers more important than those of the canons found on the bottom. No anchor was found.
Once we know the site of Corossol, we understands that it is not surprising that Baubassin and his men succeeded in recovering objects from this shipwreck: the vestiges rest only in approximately 6 metres of depth.
Today, one of the islands of Sept-Îles still bears the name of the ship. Formerly, Manowin Island, adjacent to Corossol Island, also carried the name of the King’s Vessel. However, one named it "Ground Corossol" or "Large Corossol", whereas the Island of Corossol bore the names "Large Corossol" and "Small Corossol"37. It is between these two islands that rests "one of the most famous shipwrecks of Nouvelle-France".
1 .Jean Lafrance, Les épaves du Saint-Laurent(1650-1760), Éditions de l'Homme, Montréal, 1972. pp. 129-133.
2. Recherches Historiques, 1919, pp. 280-1; 1926. p.435;1947. p. 14.
3. Dans les documents d'époque, le nom du navire varie de Corossol, à Carossol, Corrasol et même Caralot. Nous garderons le nom de Corossol, qui est celui employé dans les listes de la Marine et dans un texte d'une déclaration devant notaire relative a l'opération de sauvetage suivant le naufrage.
4. Cdt. Alain Demerliac. La Marine de Louis XIV: Nomenclature des vaisseaux du Roi-Soleil de 1661 à 1715, Éditons Omega, Nice. 1992.p 69.
5. Michel Vergé-Franceschi et Éric Rieth, Voiles et Voiliers au temps de Louis XIV: Édition critique des deux Albums dits de Jouve et de l’Album de Colbert. Éditions Du May. Paris. 1992. Planche 11.
6. “Proportions et poids des Canons de fer du Nivernais, Périgord et Hollande Envoyé par M de Seuil le 24 janvier 1686". Bibliothèque de la Marine. France. MF G202|48|. Cette planche apparaît également en Appendice dans Jean Boudriot, Artillerie de mer, France. 1650-1850. Éditions de l'Ancre. Paris. 1992.
7. Thijs Maarleveld, comm. pers. 29 mars 1999.
8. Jean Boudriot. op. cit., p. 9.
9. Cdt. Alain Demerliac. op.cit., p. 61.
10. “Lettre du ministre à l'intendant de la Marine". cote 1 E 36. p.345 des archives du Service historique de la Marine à Rochefort.
11. Guy Frégault, Iberville le conquérant, Société des Éditions Pascal. Montréal. 1944. pp. 166-167.
12. "Champigny à Pontchartrin". 12 août 1693. Archives Nationales du Canada (ci-après ANC), MG 1 Série C1l A vol. 12. fol. 250-250v.
13. Pour les retards accumulés avant le départ du voyage de 1693 de la flotte commandée par
Iberville et sur l'avonement de la mission au fort Nelson, voir Guy Frégault. op. cit., pp. 166-170.
14. Guy Frégault. ibid., p. 169.
15. Gilles Proulx. Entre France et Nouvelle-France. Marcel Broquel, Laprairie. 1984. p 67.
16. Cdt. Alain Demerliac, op. cit.,: pour le Poly. voir p. 35; l’Impertinent, p. 67; la Bretonne, p. 76; l'Indiscret, p. 68; la Fleur de Lys, p. 79; et la Perle. p. 95.
17. Des grenades ont été retrouvées sur les navires français le Machault (1760) et la Belle (1686), sur les navires anglais Dartmouth (1690) et Anne (1690), et sur le navire pirate Speaker (1702). Doug Bryce: L'armement du Machault, une frégate française du XVIIIe siècle,. Parcs Canada, Ottawa, 1984, p. 53; P. McBride. "The Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off Mull, 1690; 3. The guns", dans IJNA, 5.3 (1976), p. 197., Peter Marsden et David Lyon. "A wreck believed to be the warship Anne, lost in 1690" dans IJNA, 6.1 (1977), p. 16.; Patrick Lizé, "The wreck of the pirate ship Speaker on Mauritius in 1702". dans IJNA, 13.2 (1984), p. 125. Pour la Belle, Chuck Meide, comm. pers., 31 octobre 1997.
18. Surirey de St-Rémie. Mémoire d'Artillerie, Amsterdam. 1702, tome I, pp. 262-266.
19. "Champigny à Pontchartrin", 12 août 1693, ANC MG 1 Série C11A Vol. 12, fol. 251.
20. "Champigny à Pontchartrin", 4 novembre 1693. MG 1 Série C11A Vol.12, fol. 279v-280.
21. "Lettre d'Iberville, Rade de Beslile". 1693.ANC, MG 1 Série Cl 1A Vol. 12, fol. 313.
22. Gilles Proulx, op. cit., p. 68.
23. "Lettre de Le Moyne d'Iberville", 16 décembre 1693, ANC, MG l Série C11 A Vol.l2, fol.312.
24. M. W. Burke-Gaffney. "Franquelin, Jean-Baptisle-Louis", dans Dictionary of Canadian
Biography, éd. D.M. Hayne. University of Toronto Press. 1969, Volume 11. pp 228-231
Une histoire détaillée du départ d'Élizabeth Auber est présentée dans Lionel Laberge. Histoire du fief de Lotinville 1652-1690. L'Ange-Gardien.1963. pp. 212-3.
25. "Champigny à Pontchartrain". 4 novembre 1693, ANC. MG 1 Série C11A Vol.12. fol. 279v.
26. Guy Frégault, op. cit., p. 176.
27. Gilles Proulx, op. cit., p. 67.
28. "Correspondance de Frontenac et de Champigny au ministre Phélipeaux", 9 novembre 1694. ANC, MG 1 Série C11A Vol. 13. fol. 23v.
29. "Lettre anonyme", 1694. Collection de manuscrits contenant lettres, mémoires et autres documents relatifs à la Nouvelle-France, vol. 1. A Côté et Cie., Québec, 1883, pp. 596-597.
30. Diane Caron, Les postes de traite de fourrure sur la Côte-Nord et dans l'Outaouais. Dossiers no. 56. Direction générale des publications gouvernementales du ministère des Communications, Québec, 1984. p 68.
31. René Levesque. Les vieux comptoirs de Sept-îles, Leméac, 1981. p. 26 et André Vachon. "Jolliet. Louis" dans G. W. Brown. Dictionnaire Biographique du Canada, Volume 1. Presses de l'Université Laval. 1967, p. 409.
32. Lionel Laberge, op. cit., p. 216. M. W. Burke-Gaffney. op.cit., p. 229, avance le nombre de dix enfants.
33. "Déclaration du Sieur Poisset pour le voyage des 7 Isles", 20 mai 1694, dans Pierre-Georges Roy, Recherches Historiques, vol. 25. 1919. pp. 280-1.
34. J.F. Bosher, “DeFaye,.Jacques", dans Négociants et Navires du Commerce avec le Canada de 1660 à 1760. Dictionnaire Biographique. Services des parcs, Environnement Canada. Ottawa. 1992. p. 60.
35. "Frontenac et Champigny: Extrait général des dépêches et mémoires reçus du Canadaen 1694", ANC. MG 1 Série C11A Vol. 13. fol. 49v
36. Cdt. Alain Demerliac. op cit. p. 69.
37. Eugène Achard, Sur les sentiers de la Côte-Nord. Librairie générale canadienne, Montréal, 1960. pp. 200-201. Cette information nous avait également été fournie par M. Marcel Galienne, gardien du phare de l'île Corossol pendant plus de 30 ans, qui la tenait de son père.