It was a Monday afternoon in early January 1865 when the steamer Impératrice Eugenie approached Saigon harbor. At 1500 tons, the majestic liner of the Messageries Impériales loomed tall over the small flotilla of ships anchored off the banks of the Saigon River. Passing the construction site of the floating docks, several warships and the Admiral’s own vessel, the steamer moved smoothly upstream along the harbor front. At the end of the main pier, a large crowd of spectators observed the ship as it moved past them and pulled towards the docks of the Messageries. Opposite a small canal known as the arroyo chinois, which marked the end of the harbor front, the Messageries’ docks jutted out at a right angle into the harbor basin. At the mouth of the canal next to the docks, the river teemed with small barges and pirogues gathering around the steamer and offering to take passengers and luggage to the landing pier. The ambiance among the spectators was cheerful and expectant. As they watched the ship and the disembarking passengers, the feeling of relief that the Impératrice had finally arrived was almost palpable. The ship had been overdue for several days, and rumors had spread that it had suffered a calamity at sea.1