Naval Battles, Marine Disasters And The Search For Longitude: A Maritime Tale Of The Isles Of Scilly

Naval Battles, Marine Disasters And The Search For Longitude: A Maritime Tale Of The Isles Of Scilly

Cloudesley-Shovell may seem a rather unlikely name for an upscale eatery. But there’s a story behind Karma St Martin’s Isles of Scilly venerable double-barrelled restaurant, one that dates back more than 300 years…

In a period when the European powers seemed to be almost constantly at war, Admiral Sir Cloudesley-Shovell found himself resolutely in the thick of things. During the course of his illustrious naval career, Sir Cloudesley-Shovell battled the Dutch, French Spanish and Bavarians – that is when he wasn’t siding with one of them. Such were the times!

Some of his notable achievements included capturing Gibraltar during the War of Spanish Succession, commanding the first ship to break through enemy lines at the Battle of Barfleur (and thus playing a significant part in preventing a planned invasion of England) and repelling another invading French force at the Battle of Bantry Bay in Ireland.

Considering the amount of military action he saw, Cloudesley-Shovell’s eventual demise was somewhat ironic. In October 1707, he was returning from the battle of Toulon in the Mediterranean when a combination of foul weather and poor navigation caused the entire fleet to veer of course.

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Cloudesley-Shovell was in command of the HMS Association – the 74-gun second-rate ship of the line with which he had helped take Gibraltar. On the evening of 22nd October, the ship smashed into the Gilstone Reef – part of the Western Rocks of the Isles of Scilly, sinking in the space of just a few minutes with all 800 men on board. Three other ships went down with her. Almost 2000 sailors perished that night, making it one of Britain’s worst maritime disasters.

Calamity in this case proved to be the mother of invention: The disaster was largely attributed to navigational errors that wouldn’t have occurred had there been a method for measuring longitude. Seven years after the disaster, the Longitude Act established the Board of Longitude which offered huge cash prizes for the person who could come up with a solution. Dava Sobel’s brilliant best-seller Longitude is the story of the clockmaker John Harrison who went on to claim the prize.


As for the HMS Association, she lay in Davy Jones’ locker for more than 260 years, before she was finally discovered in 1967 by naval officer and author Richard Larn, OBE. Karma Group commissioned an accurate scale model in memory of Cloudesley-Shovell and all the souls that lost their lives that night and in appreciation of the seafaring traditions of the Isles of Scilly. We have Richard Larn OBE to thank for helping determine the ship’s particulars and the workers of Hoi An Craft Ships in Vietnam – a neighbour of our resort Karma Cay Tre – for their incredible woodworking skills and attention to detail – a great example of two Karma destinations working together in tandem. The work has since been valued at over £10,000.

Be sure to check it out next time you join us at Karma St Martins and perhaps take a moment to consider those bygone days of derring-do on the high seas…


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Written by andrio angga

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