Napoleon’s Elba Escape Ship Found

combe and cruikshank life of napoleon landing at elba

1813 – After a coalition of nations pushed Napoleon from Germany and into France itself, the French government was forced to sue for peace… and the conditions included the abdication of then-emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

It should have been the end for Napoleon. He was shipped to the island of Elba, a spec in the Mediterranean just off the Tuscan coast. Though he retained the title ‘Emperor,’ his domain was greatly diminished, reduced to sovereignty over just 12,000 inhabitants.

The banishment didn’t take. Just nine months later, Napoleon had left Elba for his march on Paris, escaping Elba aboard a small big. That brig was later captured by the British navy in 1828 and renamed HMS Swiftsure. Three years later, she was lost in Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, and presumed lost forever… at least until she was recently found by famed Australian marine conservationist and explorer Ben Cropp.


Ben Cropp claims he’s found the final resting place of the Swiftsure in shallow waters off far north Queensland, in a find of international significance that will be noted by historians in France. Mr. Cropp had to risk a dive in crocodile infested waters off Lockhart River, towards the tip of Cape York Peninsula, to be sure he’d really found what he’d spent several years searching for. But a distinctive line of keel bolts, ballast and pottery shards has left him in no doubt. Officials from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection are now in the process of verifying the claim. (The Herald Sun)


Though officials are still in the process of verifying the find, Ben Cropp is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, experienced shipwreck investigator, and is a member of the Order of Australia and the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. He also discovered more than 100 shipwrecks, including the HMS Pandora, best known for rescuing the survivors of the infamous HMS Bounty. Though ExpeditionWriter often  takes somewhat skeptical perspectives on news-making claims, there is every reason to congratulate Mr. Cropp on his amazing historical find–this is the right way to discover and announce a famous shipwreck.

Taylor Zajonc | Author, Historian & Shipwreck Expert


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