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La Medusa Shipwreck Rafting Nightmare

French Frigate La Medusa Shipwrecked, Causing a Deathly Rafting Nightmare

The French frigate La Medusa outfitted with forty-four guns, was on a mission to recapture Senegal and, under the command of Captain Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, tragically hit a rocky outcrop on the Arguin Bank. This disastrous event left 150 men stranded without food and water and six survivors in the end. 

French Frigate La Medusa
French Frigate La Medusa 

The French Frigate Named La Medusa 

The French frigate La Medusa was constructed primarily from wood, with a length of approximately 47 meters, about 154 feet, and a width, or beam, of around 11 meters, about 36 feet. It was a three-masted ship equipped with sails. 

The ship had large triangular sails. The French national flag and naval ensign flew from the stern, indicating the ship's allegiance to France. When La Medusa wrecked, it was approximately 16 years old. The ship was launched in 1810, and the infamous shipwreck occurred in 1816. 

La Medusa was painted in black and white, with black being the primary color for the hull below the waterline and white for the upper part of the hull above the waterline. 

The black paint helped protect the lower part of the ship from the corrosive effects of seawater and marine organisms, while the white paint above the waterline helped reflect sunlight and keep the ship cooler in hot climates. These colors were not only practical but also served to distinguish French naval vessels as part of their national identity.

Where the French frigate La Medusa was going, the shipwreck and rafting nightmare

In the early 19th century, Senegal, located in West Africa, was strategically important due to its resources and geographical location. During this time, European colonial powers fiercely competed to establish and maintain control over African territories. 

Senegal had been a French colony, but it had temporarily fallen into British hands during the Napoleonic Wars and subsequent events. The mission to recapture Senegal signified the French government's desire to regain control of this valuable colonial possession. 

Senegal's geographical location made it an important base for the region's French naval and commercial activities. France and the Medusa's mission was to recapture Senegal, expand their empires, and secure valuable resources. 

In 1816, the French frigate Medusa was on a voyage to Senegal in West Africa. The Medusa was commanded by Captain Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys. Captain Chaumareys was responsible for overseeing the ship and its crew. 

Tragically, the ship ran aground on a sandbank known as the Arguin Bank off the coast of modern-day Mauritania. Attempts were made to get her off the sandbank, but in vain. A raft was made from the remnants of the wrecked ship and was attached to smaller boats from the ship. These boats were lined up in a row, and the people on the raft were told they would be safely taken to land. 

However, after traveling only a short distance from the wreck, which was about two miles, the boats, one by one, disconnected from the raft and vanished. Most passengers and crew members perished due to violence, indicating that conflicts had broken out on the makeshift rafts, leading to death and destruction. 

La Medusa Shipwreck Rafting Nightmare

With little provisions and resources on the rafts, many succumbed to hunger and dehydration during the 6 days they spent adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. The turbulent sea and harsh conditions also took the lives of some who were thrown into the water during the chaos after the shipwreck.  

As desperation and anger grew among the starving crew, some turned against their fellow sailors. Violent conflicts erupted over the little food, leading to a terrible bloodbath on the raft. Hunger drove them to a horrifying choice for three agonizing days and nights: they had to eat their deceased comrades' bodies.

The fourth night was another night of violence, resulting in the loss of more lives, reducing their group to only thirty survivors. After enduring six more days of suffering, only fifteen of them remained. Then, a small ship called the Argus Brig, sent from Senegal to find them, finally rescued them from their nightmarish situation. 

The survivors were taken to Port Louis, but the ordeal wasn't over. Six of the fifteen survivors soon perished from exhaustion, leaving only nine out of the original one hundred and fifty crew members.

Did you know?

The French frigate La Medusa was outfitted with forty-four guns and left around 150 men stranded in homemade rafts without food and water, leaving six survivors in the end.


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