Port au Prince (ship)

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The Port au Prince was a tall ship, a privateer ship of war, of almost 500 tonnes, armed with 24 long nine and twelve pounders as well as 8 twelve pound carronades on the quarterdeck.

Originally built in France and owned by the French government until her capture by the Royal Navy of Great Britain off Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She then became the property of Mr. Robert Bent of London who, in 1805, gave the ship a twofold commission. The primary goal was to sail to the New World and capture treasure from the Spaniards but if unsuccessful in that endeavour she should sail into the Pacific in search of whales. Under the command of Captain Duck, she weighed anchor, on what was destined to be her last voyage, from Gravesend on 12 February 1805. Presumably unsuccessful in obtaining treasure, she sailed into the Pacific in search of whales. She dropped anchor again for the last time on 29 November 1806 at an island called Lefooga (Lifuka) in the Ha'apai Group, Kingdom of Tonga. It was here that the crew were massacred and the ship was burnt to the waterline, presumably sinking just off shore. If she had been successful in capturing treasure from the Spaniards, her haul of treasure went down with her.[1][2]

In August 2012, the wreck of the Port au Prince was discovered off the coast of Foa Island, in Tonga.

The Greenwich Maritime Museum and the Marine Archaeological Society both confirmed the age of the wreck after analysing copper sheathing found at the site. The sheathing was only used between 1780 and 1850 to combat shipworm and marine weeds and so given the location of the wreck it is considered likely to be the remains of the Port au Prince.[3]


  1. ^ Byron, Kenneth W, Treasure Ships and Tropic Isles, Gemcraft Publications 1985, ISBN 0-909223-18-1
  2. ^ Mariner, William and Martin, John, Account of the natives of the Tongan Islands, Vava'u Press 1991 (5th edition) ISBN 982-213-002-3.
  3. ^ New Zealand Herald, Pirate ship discovery could spark treasure hunt (Haden Donnell) 9 August 2012[not in citation given]