The bell was the voice of the ship. Day and night, it regulated the life of every man aboard, regardless of rank or station. Ships were fitted with two bronze bells, a large one on the forecastle and a smaller one on the quarter-deck. The small bell, also known as the quarterdeck bell, was used to mark watches aboard ship, while the large bell was used to call the crew to meals and to prayer, and to clear the decks. It was also used to signal the ship's presence in the fog, and to sound the alarm in case of danger or fire.
No bell was found at the Natière site, and it is possible – although it is not mentioned in the archives – that they were salvaged after the wreck. We know that the Sieur de la Merveille recovered items from the Dauphine in 1706, but we do not know what was taken. As for the Aimable Grenot, the archives mention intense salvaging operations on the day after the ship foundered.
The large bell often bore the name with which the ship was christened, along with the date of its launch. Finding the bell can thus be an important clue for identifying a shipwreck. A ringing bell is often the last sound that a ship makes, and it sometimes happens that the bell is the first object that divers find aboard an intact wreck. It is easy to understand the fascination for these objects – capable by themselves of revealing the identity of a sunken ship.