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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 10: Ancient Times

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Cornwall is well known for its tin mining industry; the iconic engine houses can still be seen around the countryside. It is an ancient industry, starting well over 2,500 years ago. Production of tin, a constituent of bronze, was important worldwide especially during the bronze age. This brought traders. There is a rumour that the Phoenicians came to Cornwall to trade for tin, although there has been no evidence to prove that, yet. On an old hand drawn local chart, in an area near St Michael’s Mount, there is a written comment stating ‘Phoenician’s objects found’. What these ‘objects’ were, or where they are now, is unknown.

Whether the Phoenicians actually made it to Cornwall may never be known. The author David Gibbins writes of a Phoenician wreck off the Cornish Coast in his book Testament. Although Testament is fiction, several of David Gibbins stories from his books have actually come true. Whether or not the Phoenicians came to Cornwall, there would have been other traders coming by sea, from that era.

The Romans may have conquered a large part of the known world, including England. They did not conquer Cornwall, although they did trade with her. There are very few known Roman settlements in Cornwall, it was too remote and the Cornish were probably too efficient at producing tin. The Romans knew that if they tried to take control, tin production might fall. It was far easier to trade.

There are lots of Roman finds around Cornwall; a lot, considering they never really occupied the area. Roman tin traders would have travelled by land as well as by sea. Rumours of Roman wrecks have been passed down locally and amphora are believed to have been recovered in the past. I have been told this from two separate sources with regards to two separate locations. There is a very big chance that there are more to be found.

Apart from amphora, we would expect to see remains of weapons and even quern stones. Quern stones are corn grinding stones, something the Romans were believed to carry on all their vessels. They would be used for grinding corn to make flour, which they could use to make bread, soups or cornmeal. I have found a quern stone, as has another local diver. They are hard to date but are both estimated to be over a thousand years old. They would also have a hearth, terracotta and bronze containers and utensils, maybe even a mortar. Roman warships had large bronze spikes at the bow to pierce any vessels they rammed, but, unfortunately, their merchant vessels did not have these.

The Vikings visited Cornwall, not to live, but to raid and trade. They made several raids including one as far around the coast as Padstow in 981AD. They would have traded for tin as it was still an important commodity. Viking ships were fast but lightweight and constantly needing repair. Riding a storm out on the Cornish coast is hard in any small vessel, so the Viking vessels would stand little chance. Unfortunately, there was little to a Viking ship, other than wood and small iron nails. So, if one was ever found, it would be very hard to work out what it was from the cargo alone. Although finding anything ancient in the waters around Cornwall would be highly unlikely, it would certainly be of national archaeological importance.


Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba at www.atlanticscuba.co.uk

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 3

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somabay

Today we are diving one of the outer reefs from an inflatable. As we reach the bottom, a reef octopus eases its way into the cover of a small crack in the coral while displaying it’s incredible ability to change colour. They are arguably one of the most charismatic of reef dwellers and it is always exciting for me to simply hover and watch. I would have spent longer and waited for it to come and investigate me, but as dive time is limited we wanted to move on and find a turtle.

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The waters around Somabay are well protected and hold a rich variety of marine life. The reef edges are thriving colonies of coral and shoaling fish, while nearer the sea bed plenty of wildlife is still to be found.

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Then we located the turtles. They are very used to divers and so show little concern when slowly approached. In fact occasionally one will come over to see what you are doing. There is always huge excitement when diving with a turtle. The shear thrill of sharing a moment with another species.

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What a fantastic way to finish a wonderful few days diving and I would like to thank SOMABAY, ORCA DIVING and THE BREAKERS for making my stay such a good one.

I had a great time, with diving everyday either on the house reef or on one of the offshore reefs by inflatable or larger day boat. Orca diving provided high quality equipment and facilities while the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The Breakers was right on the coast with nice rooms, good food and once again friendly staff making the whole trip a real pleasure.

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Soma Bay covers an entire peninsula and is home to several resorts as well as residential  compounds.

As well as scuba diving, Somabay caters for many other sports and activities, and so is perfect for families as well as individuals and/or groups. And of course there is always time to lay peacefully on the beach under the Egyptian sun.

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Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 2

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Day three of my trip to Somabay and we were spending the day on the Lady Christina and diving on the wreck of the Salem Express.

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Diving wrecks for me is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of diving a wreck is more than often tempered by the thought of loss of life when she sank. The Salem Express was a passenger ship and a roll-on/roll-off ferry travelling from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. Most passengers were of poor class travelling home from their holidays while around 150 people were returning home from their pilgrimage to Mecca.

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The ship struck a reef and sank within 20 minutes. Passengers were trapped below deck and the ship was filled with fear and panic.

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The wreck area is strewn with personal belongings from the crew and passengers such as a transistor radio and a flat iron for clothes. A diver at sometime has put them in a prominent place to be seen.

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Tragically only one life boat was launched while the others went down with the ship. More than 600 men, women and children lost their lives here.

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It’s a stark reminder that the sea can be unforgiving and so when we dive on such wrecks we should do so with humble regard.

Returning to the surface, shoals of fish are gathered under our boat and seem to be welcoming us back into the light.

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Back at the Breakers I sat in the dining area with a beer and a very good meal while my thoughts still remained with the day’s dive on the Salem Express.

Check in for part 3 tomorrow for Jeff’s last day of diving with Somabay on the off-shore reefs looking for turtles.

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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