The survivors of S.S.Trevessa

  • A moving story within Bel Ombre maritime life

The Journey

In 1923, Bel Ombre became a part of the history of a tragic shipwreck, the Trevessa, although it happened thousands of miles away from its coast. The Trevessa was a Hain Line steamer. It was en route from Fremantle, Australia to Durban, South Africa carrying zinc concentrates. About 1640 miles from Fremantle, the boat began accumulating water. It is said that it began sinking so quickly that the crew did not even have time to properly dress before embarking on the two rescue boats available. [1]

The currents caused them to drift further away from Australia. On-board one of the rescue boats was Mr. Smith, on the other, Captain Foster. After a few days, the two boats drifted apart from each other, and their rations soon dwindled. It is reported that some of the sailors died from drinking too much sea water, thereby dehydrating their bodies. Foster’s boat drifted for 23 days before reaching Rodrigues. Four days later, Smith's boat approached Mauritian shores.

After further drifting upon reaching the coastal waters of Mauritius, Mr. Smith’s boat reached the pass facing the Batelage, where the survivors were met by a couple of pirogues with fishermen, on the 29th of June 1923. The first one took fright while the second one helped the survivors to shore. Out of 25 men aboard the safety boat, 9 had already perished during the voyage. With the Bel Ombre authorities forewarned, the crew was taken first to the house of Mr. Chalain who was managing the Batelage at the time and subsequently to the local hospital. The cook on board, Mr. William Allchin did not survive long, and was buried the next day.  The convalescence was not easy: their boots had been incrusted in their skin due to the saltwater and removing them exposed their bare flesh. Gradually, they each got better, and were soon able to transfer to Port-Louis to be able to go back to their country.

The last one to leave Bel Ombre was Mr. Smith, who recalled that he survived by thinking about his wife and children. He also carried with him a metal stick to ward off any mutiny or other dangers and kept the last piece of biscuit which he gave to the administrator of Bel Ombre, Mr. Robert. These are still kept to this day in the Naval History Museum in Mahebourg. A monument was erected commemorating this tragedy.


Mr. Charles Seaborn

One of the survivors was Charles Seaborn, who came back to Bel Ombre for the first time in 1983, and subsequently came back regularly, visiting the site where they landed, the monument, but also, the grave of one of his shipmates. He was, along with Mr Allchin, in a critical state when they arrived in 1923. The doctor sent on the spot could not treat both at the same time, and chose to provide first aid to Mr Seaborn, binding their fate in a tragic way.

Out of the 44 officers present on board, 33 survived. Their 25 days of drifting at sea was the longest drifting period known at the[1]  time, and their survival was deemed a miracle that made news all over the world. 




[1] BBC


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