"Comte de Belgioioso an Odyssey"


"Ostendse Compagnie"

It has been suggested that I write up something up regarding the shipwreck ‘Count de Belgioioso’ and our ongoing search for its remains. It is indeed an interesting story, and more, it has been a fascinating journey. As much as I would love to recount the whole story, one that would deservingly fill many pages, it is therefore much too lengthy for our forum – and sure then I have to shoot you. I will however reveal some of the exciting new facts that have been unearthed after ten years of research and hunting for the remains of this ship - enlarging on an earlier account that appeared in SUBSEA.

Where to begin, ah yes, the setting. Slavery was big business, Britain was just closing the war with America, and all kinds of new ideas were being teased out by ‘philosophers’. The diving bell, ballooning, electricity, steam, a virtual revolution of ideas that would ‘improve’ the lot of humanity. Eminent and progressive thinkers were in the ascendancy and excitingly corresponding ideas from far flung corners of the earth through a surprisingly efficient ‘postal’ system. The Dublin Chamber of Commerce was established, as was the Bank of Ireland, and Gandon’s Custom House masterpiece was almost complete. It was the 1780’s, sailing ships came up the Liffey to Capel Street, where sailors could hop off and buy a lotto – you think I’m kiddin. A port which might be described as a sister of Dublin, Liverpool was the centre of the universe for many of its well healed merchants. These were men who had amassed incredible fortunes in shipbuilding, shipping, slavery and privateering – a respectable title given to piracy legitimised by ‘letters of marque’. This was not unusual at the time, the ‘letter’ being permission from the State to attack its enemies at sea and seize their ships and cargoes. This licensing system was a great money spinner and one that was considerably abused.

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