The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

The Xema Expedition

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The steamer Xema on his way to the Diamond Island
The Graphic (1 september 1906, p. 290)

The Xema Expedition was a British expedition of the steamer Xema (pronounced Zeemah) managed by the Collis Diamond Syndicate Ltd. from 19 august to 19 november 1906. Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the shareholders.

The mission was to explore a Guano island of West Africa, now known as Plumpudding Island (27°38′31″S, 15°30′49″E) to find diamonds based on the testimony of a mariner who survived a shipwreck on a desert island where he found some diamonds. The expedition was supposed to be secret, but the freight of the Xema was uncommon: diamond mining drills and a lot of guns and ammunition. Soon, a rumor of a treasure-hunting was divulged in the press on 4 august 1906. A few days later, the name of the shareholders were published where Arthur Conan Doyle was listed with a contribution of 30 shares (£30 or 300 shillings. There was two share price: £1 or 10s).

Because of the publicity in the press, some competing vessels tried to reach the island as well. Unfortunately, the Xema expedition was a "fiasco" because the Cape government refused any ships to land the islands. Cruisers were sent to intercept the Xema, and after some vainly discussions, had to leave to Cape Town and abandon the project. When the shareholders learned about the failure, they were assembled at the Charing Cross Hotel by the Collis Syndicate on 8 october 1906. Arthur Conan Doyle couldn't attend but he sent a letter saying he was prepared to join any movement to test the legality of "the Cape Government's despotic action." The shareholders decided that the Xema should be brought home.

The Xema voyage

  • 19 august 1906 : she left Cardiff.
  • 25 august : she reached Las Palmas (off the coast of Morocco).
  • September : she reached St. Helena (off the coast of Namibia and Angola).
  • September : she was at Walfisch Bay (now Walvis)
  • November : she was in Cape Town harbour.
  • 19 november : she picked up a cargo for Bombay and departed.