Cannons tell the tale of French and British conflicts
Sitting under six metres of water, in Conche, are reminders of how heated things could get between the French and English.
Since the 16th century, both countries saw great profit in the cod fishery and viewed Newfoundland as a strategic location for transatlantic voyages.
As a result the two were often engaged in battles for Newfoundland soil.
While English merchants and their crews would have to defend themselves against armed attacks dating back to 1583, The Rooms in St. John’s notes that the formation of a navy under the British Commonwealth decades later brought about peace.
But in the late 1600s that peace would deteriorate to bring about a century of armed conflict.
Two causalities of these conflicts were the Marguerite and the Murinet.
According to documentation at the French Shore Interpretation Centre in Conche, the Marguerite was approximately 200 tonnes, with a complement of between 20 and 26 cannons.
The Murinet was the larger ship, coming in at 340 tonnes and bolstering between 30 and 32 cannons.
The French vessels met their demise on Aug. 5, 1707, in Conche.
The crews had been trapped in the harbour by a stronger naval squadron.
After a brief exchange of fire, rather than having their ships commandeered by the British, the French crews set fire to the two vessels before escaping to shore.
FINDING THE CANNONS
It wasn’t until 1977 that the remains of the Marguerite were found.
The Newfoundland Marine Archeological Society conducted a short expedition in the area trying to locate the vessels. The group found 20 cannons, ballast, and wood from the hull and other artifacts. In the years to follow, two other cannons would be found.
Extensive searches for the Murinet remains were conducted, but never found.
In 1978 the Marguerite was made a provincial historic site, her cannons still sitting on the ocean floor.
Source: French Shore Interpretation Centre, Conche