The Nautical Almanac & Its Superintendents

1707: Disaster at Sea

Lost on the Rocks of Scilly

Sir Clouldsley Shovell in the Association with the Eagle, Rumney and the Firebrand, Lost on the Rocks of Scilly.

© National Maritime Museum, London

In the worst of several marine disasters to befall the British Navy four Royal warships commanded by Admiral Sir Clowdisley (or Cloudesley) Shovell (1650-1707), struck the treacherous reefs off the Isles of Scilly in the approaches to British waters on October 22nd 1707.

Sir Clowdisley Shovell

Sir Clowdisley Shovell by Michael Dahl

© National Maritime Museum, London

There is a legend, that the day before the disaster, all the Captains were called to the bridge of the Association to discuss their geographical position. It was decided that they were off the French coast. A cabin boy said they were off the Isles of Scilly, and he should know because he was born there! No one listened to him, and it is believed that he was hanged at the yard-arm for insubordination. The next day the whole fleet ran aground and 2,000 men were drowned. The Admiral managed to swim ashore, but his only reward was to be strangled by a woman for his rings. The woman on her death bed confessed to a clergyman and the rings were returned to the Shovell family.

It is the same current, now know as the Rennel current, that brought the oil tanker Torry Canyon to disaster in 1967.


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