The ship l’Hermione. Snippets of French History. Part 6.
A near-perfect replica of the original frigate l’Hermione is open to the public in nearby Rochefort. The huge project started in 1997 and was largely finished in 2010. Last year (2013) the ship was floated, and it is intended to sail over to America at some point. The modern version has lighter sails (though still 16 000 sq.feet of them -the original had 24 000 sq feet) and, for safety and the overall comfort of the sailors, it also has an engine as well as the sails. The re-creating of the famous ship was delayed time and again (as these things always are!) by safety regulations, practicalities and logistics, but the new version is as close to the original as one can sensibly get. The advantage of the delays, however, was that it gave the general public a chance to look around and the outstanding success of this has brought in much needed funds.
The original was built in virtually the same place in 1778. Rochefort was the centre for naval construction for hundreds of years and the opening scene in Les Miserables, for those who have seen it, is almost certainly supposed to be right there. Convict labour was used as well as craftsmen. It was one of four similar frigates, the others less famous and named La Courageuse, la Concorde and La Fee … which seems an odd name for a frigate, une fee being a fairy (acute accent on the first e). L’hermione ran aground in 1793, having served barely thirteen years, off the coast of France in the Loire Atlantique.
Click here for Part 7 (Asterix!)