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The day the Waterloo sank: thoughts on islanding, the archipelagic and crisis heterotopia

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 17:47 authored by Elaine StratfordElaine Stratford
Consider the loss of the Waterloo, a convict transport bound for Van Diemen’s Land—now Tasmania. Numerous accounts of the loss published in South African, British, and American newspapers in the third quarter of 1842 drew on a letter dated 29th August carried to London from Cape Town on the Hyacinth. On 24th August, several ships were anchored at the Cape near the southeastern end of Table Bay. On 26th August, a storm began that raged for two more days, and late morning on the 28th the Waterloo went broadside. Held by an anchor, the ship rolled heavily several times against the beach and foundered. Thereafter, 190 of its crew, their families, and Her Majesty’s prisoners perished in the wreck and waves, watched from onshore by likely as many witnesses. In this paper, I refer to contemporaneous newspaper reports and lithographs, and to current island scholarship, in order to critically examine how this one event brings into sharp relief a series of islanding and archipelagic processes and effects that work on bodies, ships, coastlines, islands, colonies, and imperial projects. A number of insights arise from this examination that are relevant to the present time, where these processes and effects continue, constituting what Michel Foucault called crisis heterotopia—forbidden spaces reserved for individuals confronting calamities such as loss of freedom, abjection, and death. Finally, attention is paid to the ways in which tragic events such as the Waterloo’s foundering generate alternative narratives that open up spaces of hope— then and now.


Publication title

16th ISISA Islands of the World Conference 2018: Abstracts


K Deen




College Office - College of Arts, Law and Education



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Event title

16th ISISA Islands of the World Conference 2018

Event Venue

Leeuwarden-Terschelling, The Netherlands

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Expanding knowledge in human society

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