Convicts, cargo, and calamity: The wreck of the emigrant ship Enchantress

Abigail E Casavant, University of Rhode Island

Abstract

From 2009-2015, the University of Rhode Island and St. Mary’s College of California conducted joint underwater archaeology field schools in the waters off Bermuda on a site called the Iron Plate Wreck. Aptly named for two large stacks of sheet iron, one located at the stern and one at the bow, the wreck’s identity remained a mystery. In 2013, however, historical research provided clues to the identity of the wreck, revealing it is likely the Enchantress, an early 19th century British merchant vessel with a unique past. The Enchantress not only carried cargo when it sank on February 5, 1837, but also the lives of 64 emigrants, all of whom were saved by local Bermudians and eventually the British government. Before the Enchantress transported impoverished emigrants, the vessel served as both a merchant ship for the East India Company in 1830 and as a convict ship in 1833. ^ This thesis will examine the historical and archaeological records as they relate to the Iron Plate Wreck’s identification as the Enchantress. In addition to a detailed examination of the historical documents pertaining to the Enchantress, this paper will also assess other accounts of Irish emigrant and Australian convict shipwrecks within the appropriate context. In depth archival research at the Bermuda Archives in Hamilton, Bermuda and the National Archives in Surrey, England revealed a plethora of historical information concerning the Enchantress. Six field seasons worth of preliminary archaeological excavations will also be evaluated. The wreck's unusual historical background, with support from the archaeological record, will be fully analyzed in order to tell the most complete story of the Enchantress known to date.^

Subject Area

Archaeology|History

Recommended Citation

Abigail E Casavant, "Convicts, cargo, and calamity: The wreck of the emigrant ship Enchantress" (2016). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI10100304.
http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dissertations/AAI10100304

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