Alone Like a Rolling Stone

The wreck Edith Cavell

The bow of the SS Edith Cavell

I climb aboard via the anchor chain outlets located at the bow. The dinghy attached to a rusty steel eyelet. On all fours I crawl through dense branches, everywhere tree trunks and foliage, out of the hull of the Edith Cavell, towards the sky. I am annoyed that I did not take my machete with me. I had bought it for just such purposes. From our buoy place it was already to be recognized that the freighter is strongly too overgrown, but that here such a thicket prevails, I did not expect. Again something learned, next time better prepare. The British steamer was built in 1898 by Bartram&Son Ltd. in Sunderland, and commissioned as SS Wagner by Taylor, Jenneson&Co London. In 1915, the ship was sold to Moss H. E.&Co Liverpool and renamed SS Edith Cavell. In 1924, the cargo ship, ran aground in St. Laurent du Maroni. Rumor has it that after several attempts in Cayenne and Kourou to provoke an insurance claim, this finally succeeded in St. Laurent. Anyway, since 1924, the ship has now been lying here, forming a magnificent backdrop. Through the sand and mud of the Maroni River, as well as existing seeds in the hull, a protective forest has formed in front of the buoy field of about 20 buoys, in the course of almost 100 years.

Deck of the Edith Cavell

The namesake Edith Cavell was a British nurse who was sentenced to death by a German military court in Belgium during the First World War. She was charged, in particular, for feeding crews to the enemy. Cavell helped numerous wounded escape as part of her duties as matron of a Belgian teaching hospital. At that time, according to the Reichs Penal Code, the maximum penalty for aiding an escape was life imprisonment. Why a death sentence was pronounced here, which was carried out the following day, will probably never be clarified. In any case, she died as a martyr, which was obviously not a good omen for the ship.

Midships on the Edith Cavell

So I make my way through the undergrowth and reach a clear spot and the first cargo hatch. The steel deck is in surprisingly good condition. On the starboard side, I discover that I could have reached the deck comfortably if I had circumnavigated the ship first. But then it wouldn't have been an adventure I think to myself and inspect the ladder that leads inside the ship. Unfortunately, I can't get any further here, because the cargo holds are flooded with water. Also the ship has broken apart in the middle on its nearly 107 meters length. Under a tree that sprouts about 10 meters in height and takes up the entire width of the ship of 14 meters, I discover one of the two ship's propellers. Also made of steel. With its good 2 meters in diameter, if it were made of bronze, it would not have been here for a long time. 


Dense foliage again blocks my way and I decide to return to the dinghy and look for a place at the stern to board the Edith Cavell once again. Tying up at a shackle, I go alongside with the dinghy and jump on deck again. The rudder quadrant is at the end of a shaft about 3m above me. I notice the steel rivets reflecting in rusty water and think to myself, solid shipyard work. The builders had probably built it for eternity, now it is rotting away and testifies to a long forgotten time. But it will take quite a while until this wreck is gone. Even after another hundred years you will find the remains of the Edith Cavell in a small forest, and one or the other will ask themselves: Who was Edith Cavell? A human being who was illegally sentenced to death by an overzealous military court because of her humanitarian attitude, and was denied the necessary and due help out of pride and demonstration of power.

Bent steel

It is always exciting with which topics one is confronted on such a journey. Of course, you have to get involved, you can also look past it, but we learn every day and are happy about it. Even in the middle of the rainforest of French Guyana, unexpected things come to light again and again, which astonish us. In order to preserve this amazement we undertake this journey, and as long as we preserve this state, this amazement will enrich our lives. We wish you all something to marvel at every day, keep checking in with us and keep a stiff upper lip.

Stern of the SS Edith Cavell