The Story of the “Lutine”

1 gold Louis d’or;
5 brass hoops and casks;
a quantity of cannon and shot.

“Considering the value of the saved objects, it may not be of much signification; but the salvage itself is of very great importance, as it proves two facts, namely, first, that the wreck of the Lutine really has been found, and, secondly, that there is specie still in the wreck. As soon as anything more is picked up, I will inform you immediately thereof. Be assured, I have taken the necessary steps to secure the interests of Lloyd’s committee, as owners of the treasure, which we hope may entirely be saved.” The letter was followed by others, reporting the salvage of more specie, one of them, under date of September 5, 1857, giving the important information that “the vessel is entire,” and that “her position has been exactly determined.” Operations were now pushed forward with great energy, under the direction of Mr. John Mavor Hill, general agent of Lloyd’s at Amsterdam, who was acknowledged in his official position by the Government of the Netherlands. Hearing from Mr. Bak towards the end of September that the news of the discovered “gold wreck” had spread with amazing rapidity among the fishing population of the Zuyder Zee, and all along the coast of the German Ocean, and that there were already “sixty-eight large and well-manned boats in the immediate neighbourhood looking for plunder,” Mr. Hill put himself into communication with the government, and obtained the grant of a gun-boat, with a small party of soldiers on board, for the protection of the wreck and the diving operations. The government of King Willem III., besides, performed the courteous act of lending to Lloyd’s and the Dutch salvage company a large diving-bell, extremely well adapted for the operations, and with the aid of it a very considerable quantity of treasure was got up from the wreck before the middle of November, 1857. During the next four or five winter months, the operations came to a practical standstill on account of the weather, but they began again with renewed vigour in the summer of 1858—a summer bringing a golden harvest to Lloyd’s.

In the midst of the hauling-up of treasure, consisting of gold and silver bars, Spanish pistoles, and Louis d’or, there came in a highly interesting memorial of the “Lutine” in the summer of 1858. On the 17th of July the divers brought to daylight, with tremendous exertions, the bell of the old thirty-two-gun frigate, dumb at the bottom of the sea while two generations of men had come and gone. The bell, weighing upwards of eighty pounds, was found perfectly well preserved, with its cast ornaments clean as from the factory, the date of its birth conspicuous at the side, above it the royal crown and arms of Bourbon, and around the rim the inscription “Saint Jean,” denoting, probably, the name of the saint under whose special protection all men and things on board “La Lutine” were placed when she first glided into the waters as a war-ship of His Majesty King Louis XVI. of France. Not far from the place where the bell was found, there was dug out of the sands the broken rudder of the “Lutine,” and both bell and rudder were taken to Lloyd’s, in the library of which they still form conspicuous objects, the rudder converted into a large table with corresponding arm-chair, handsomely carved, and the bell standing at the foot-board of the table, partly wrapped in the massive rudder chain. The thronged rooms of Lloyd’s possess in bell and converted rudder their most singular “message from the sea.”

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