Improbable Legends Surrounding the Shipwreck of Sir Clowdisley Shovel

By J. G. Pickwell, published May 1973


This research note clearly demonstrates the unfounded basis for at least three colourful tales about the wreck of Sir Clowdisley Shovell’s fleet on the Isles of Scilly in 1707. The article discuses three legends: Firstly, that a council of sailing-masters was held concerning the fleet’s position in the afternoon prior to the disaster; secondly, that Shovell escaped from his flagship in his barge together with his pet dog; and thirdly, that Shovell was murdered for his valuables on St. Marys upon landing. All three tales are improbable and contradicted by contemporary records and logic. Based on careful documentary research, this examination concludes simply that on 22 October 1707 after a pause for soundings, the fleet resumed sailing without a council of sailing-masters, met disaster that evening and Shovell went down with his flagship.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Spanish Succession | Shipwrecks
Subjects include: Ship Handling & Seamanship

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