On August 25, 1833, the British convict transport Amphitrite, filled with more than one hundred women prisoners and their children, together with a crew of sixteen, left London for the 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 a French beach—in full 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 on board 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. Others accused the British consul ashore of criminal negligence on the night of the wreck.
Colorfully set in the political and social context of early nineteenth-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 inflamed public emotions; Lord Palmerston, the British foreign secretary; Captain Henry Chads, RN, the Admiralty's investigator; Consul William Hamilton, who was the chief subject of the investigation; Sarah Austin, a British expatriate whose extraordinary heroism the night of the wreck merited an award; and her secret love, a fortune-hunting Prussian prince. Drawing from government records in England, Scotland, and France, and from contemporary newspaper reporting, Andrew Jampoler spins an authentic sea story that rivals the best fiction. Readers will find this work firmly cements Jampoler's reputation as a master storyteller.
Andrew Jampoler is the award-winning author of The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt's Flight from the Gallows and Adak: The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 . A resident of Loudoun County, VA, he spent more than twenty years in the U.S. Navy and later was a marketing executive in the international aerospace industry.
Praise for Horrible Shipwreck!
“It is a gripping, and wide-ranging story which has been meticulously researched. It is far more than just the story of a tragic shipwreck, ranging as it does across the history and organization of transportation, politics and the social context of the early nineteenth century to the wreck itself and the events which followed. Jampoler explores the backgrounds and histories of the main characters and brings them to life. This is a worthy addition to the oeuvre of Andrew Jampoler whose reputation goes before him and is enhanced by this work.”
—Bill Laxon Maritime Library Foundation, New Zealand
“This well-researched book appeals to readers interested in catastrophic storms, naval history, and criminal justice in Great Britain during the first half of the nineteenth century.”
— Nautical Research Journal, Winter 2011
“Jampoler's account takes readers through a canvas filled with striking topics and intriguing characters…Horrible Shipwreck is worth reading. It covers a frequently overlooked period of maritime history, and provies a fascinating glimpse at the state of oceangoing sail during the decade when steam began to supplant sail.”
— Naval History Book Reviews, 3 Nov 2011: Issue 13
“Andrew C.A. Jampoler is the author of several award-winning books. With Horrible Shipwreck! he presents a comprehensive, yet compelling, story of the tragic sinking of theconvict ship Amphitrite. The combination of primary and secondary sources creates acomprehensive body of literature by which to examine this particular account, and placesit within a more solid historical framework. the book would appeal to readers of all ages and of a variety ofbackgrounds. Horrible Shipwreck! provides a good starting point forresearch and reveals the complex social, cultural and political milieu within andsurrounding one ship. Jampoler’s work brings to light the importance of context inunderstanding any event. This book is not only a good read but will also be useful inundergraduate classes on maritime history, legal history and those concerning the nineteenth century.”
— International Journal of Maritime History, June 2011
“A fine survey for any nautical or history holding—and for many a general interest collection where dramatic true history is of interest.”
— The Midwest Book Review, June 2011