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Thursday, April 16, 2009

New wreck found in Wales

A new wreck possibly containing a valuable cargo has been discovered in Wales.
The dive team that found the 'Bronze Bell' near Barmouth (That's 'Wulvaramtun-by the say' to us Yam Yams*) are understood to have uncovered the historic wreck of the paddle steamer, believed to date back to the mid-1800s.
Divers examined the wreck over the past few weekends with a film crew but they are remaining tight-lipped about the find.

While I know of the rough location and depth of the wreck, I shall not reveal it to avoid wreckers trashing the archaeological find in the hunt for any valuables it might contain.
But if the previous discoveries of archaeologist Mike Bowyer are anything to go by, it could be a biggy.

Parts of Cardigan Bay are known as a wreckers paradise and the team discovered the wreck as they made a series of exploratory dives more than 30 years ago to see whether the stories of what had foundered on the reef of Sarn Badrig a short distance from the glorious sandy beaches of Barmouth.

The 17th century vessel was sunk whilst carrying 30 tonnes of white marble which some suggested was to be used in the building of St Paul's Cathedral.
The armed cargo ship, carrying cannons, muskets and grenades to prevent pirates from seizing the valuable blocks is thought to have been blown off course and ended up rounding Lands End instead of heading into the English Channel.

Divers Mike Bowyer and Tony Iles were among those who discovered the wreckage in 1978 after the shifting sands which had covered her for years moved to expose the wreck site. It is said that the group first thought they were hallucinating when they stumbled upon the canons such was their surprise.

Clues to the ship's identity were spare, all they had was a bronze bell dated 1677 and the marble, that came from Tuscany.
However, the divers had a breakthrough when they found a navigation chart from the 1700s that marked out the wreck of the "Genoese Ship" as sinking in 1709.

Shipwreck Detectives TV show a few years ago had an episode examining the wreck and there is a fabulous Ty Gwyn Museum (above the oldest building in Barmouth, Davy Jones' Locker, which does fantastic breakfasts, in case you were wondering) about the wreck, and what was raised from it, overlooking Barmouth Harbour and is well worth a visit. I pop in every time I am there.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has some good images and interesting background. Also read the archaeological site assessment.
And below is a nice bit of video has been added to YouTube by Berkcam and can be seen below.

Also check out the Shipwreck Dairies blog for another interesting bite.

The dive is relatively easy as the wreck is extremely shallow, about 6metres. Large marble blocks lie scattered between two big anchors and more than 20 cannons. The area is also a haven for much marine life, such as goldsinnys, dogfish, pollack, wrasse and various crustaceans. It is now a protected site. However because it is shallow it is prone to problems with bad viz caused by the weather of poor diver finning.

*Wolverhampton by the sea to us folk from the fair city of Wolverhampton. Named so because of the huge number of Midlanders who holiday in this beauty spot.

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