Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Titanic: The Prequel

Historian, author and blogger Robert Sean Brazil notes today that exactly four centuries ago, on June 2, 1609, English adventurers set sail for the New World on a mission that would end in a famous shipwreck.

Orthodox Shakespeare scholars argue that accounts of the July 1609 shipwreck are a crucial source for The Tempest. As has been discussed in this space before, those claims have since been refuted.

All the same, the story of the 1609 shipwreck is still an amazing nautical tale, and Brazil delivers the storytelling goods.

Excerpts from Brazil's account of the 1609 wreck after the jump

He writes:

The Sea Venture is said to have been England’s first built-to-order emigration vessel…a tradition that climaxed in the industrial age when thousands of Scots and Irish were forcibly uprooted and relocated to Nova Scotia and other destinations. The Sea Venture displaced 300 tons and had an innovative new design that placed her 24 defensive cannons on the main deck. However, with all this high technology employed, the Sea Venture’s fate was similar to the ill-fated Titanic. Both vessels did not survive their maiden voyages.

The Sea Venture set sail from Plymouth on June 2, 1609, bound for Jamestown, Virginia. Everything was going smoothly until the flotilla ran into a monstrous hurricane. By July 24, the winds had driven the vessels apart from each other and it was each ship for herself. Because the Sea Venture was brand new, the caulking and joining was still loose and the great vessel began coming apart and leaking. They threw the heavy guns overboard. On July 25, with water in the hold rising fast, Admiral Somers spotted land and purposely drove the ship ashore. He wrecked his vessel but discovered Bermuda.

We now know the Bard didn't use this gripping material for his scripts. But it's never too late. Somebody should.

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