On August 25, 1833, the British convict ship Amphitrite, filled with more than one hundred women prisoners and their children along with a crew of thirteen, left London for a convict colony in New South Wales. Less than a week later, all but three died when a savage storm battered their ship to pieces on the beach at Boulogne--in sight of hundreds of horrified onlookers. Inexplicably, the captain, John Hunter, had refused offers of aid from the shore. Sensational news coverage of the calamity prompted an Admiralty investigation to find out who was responsible. The suspicion was that Hunter and the surgeon aboard rejected assistance because they feared the women would escape custody. Some blamed the doctor’s wife because she had refused to go ashore in the same boat with the convicts so no boat was launched.
Colorfully set in the political and social context of early 19th century Great Britain, this account of the shipwreck is peopled with a fascinating cast of characters that includes John Wilks, the Paris correspondent of a London newspaper whose reporting triggered public emotions; Lord Palmerston, the British foreign secretary; William Hamilton, the British consul who led the investigation; Sarah Austin, a British expatriate whose heroism the night of the wreck merits an award; and a Prussian prince. Drawing from government records in England, Scotland, and France, and from contemporary reports, Andrew Jampoler spins a memorable sea tale that is entirely true yet rivals the best of fiction. Readers will find this latest addition to his growing body of works firmly cements Jampoler’s reputation as a master storyteller.