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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 13: Dollar Cove, just what is the ‘truth’?

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Reprising our popular series of Cornish Wreck Ramblings by Mark Milburn…

Part 13: Dollar Cove, just what is the ‘truth’?

For many years treasure hunters have been searching for the fabled “Dollar Cove” wreck. Dollar Cove’s actual name is Jangye Ryn; it got the name “Dollar Cove” from the silver pillar dollars, pieces of eight, that used to regularly wash ashore. Most stories online state that coins washed up from the 17thC wreck are dated up to around 1775, so late 18thC. The San Salvador is quite often listed as being the dollar wreck, it was a hundred years too early. Although it was reportedly wrecked near Gunwalloe Church Cove, the wrong side of St Winwalloe Church to be the Dollar wreck.

Underwater artefacts

Within the church records of St Winwalloe, there is an entry from 1787, it states that a Portuguese wreck occurred with several bodies washed ashore. There are no records of this wreck anywhere, which is no surprise. There are many wrecks along that piece of coast without any records.

The current suspect, is the Rio Nova, it sank in 1802, near Penzance. The whole of Mounts Bay was classed as close to Penzance, back in those days. The Rio Nova was carrying 19,000 silver coins, 12,500 of which were recovered at the time. Many coins have washed up over the years, on one day in the late 19th century, 484 coins were said to have washed up one night. The main problem with the Rio Nova being the dollar wreck, is that divers said they found the Rio Nova near Penzance many years ago.

A lone 18th Century Cannon, possibly from the Dollar Cove Wreck

Some other sources of information state:

A Spanish ship struck the cliffs midway between Gunwalloe Church Cove and the fishing cove, half a mile westward. She broached, end to end, and spilled her cargo of pieces of silver. In 1845 a limited company tried to recover the cargo by damming the mouth of the gully with the intention of pumping it dry at low water. However, their attempts were thwarted by a southwest gale which swept the dam away. (2)(3)(4)

The distance between Church Cove and Fishing Cove is a couple of miles, the gully they dammed was believed to be the one on the headland, between Church Cove and Dollar Cove.

Another attempt was made in 1847 when a gang of miners were hired to cut a passage down and steps down the cliff and sink a shaft 3 metres in diameter and 25 feet deep in the rocks. The miners then drove 40 feet under the gully, but no coins appeared; but the sea did and they just escaped with their lives. (2)(3)(4)

Some of their efforts are still visible around the headland, the main one being a cutting on the far most northern corner.

A 2006 attempt to locate the treasure

Thirty years later, a Mr Boyd, with engineers and divers, attempted to pump out and sieve the contents of the 1847 shaft. No dollars were found so they decided to blow up the shaft and sieve it but to no avail. (3)(4)

In 1877 two bankers from Helston sold 200 shares at £3 each to finance another attempt. The circular mentioned several ships rather than one and the promoter John Toy had occasionally picked up dollars around the cove. He had divers working within a caisson, but nothing was found during the first season. However, the following year an unspecified quantity of coin was recovered, but it was insufficient to repay the shareholders and the company went into liquidation. (3)(4)

There are several ships in the area, this story seems to have been echoed many years later, on another wreck in Cornwall.

In June 1890 another attempt was made by the Liverpool salvage steamer ZEPHYR, but it came to nothing. The last attempt was made by a London businessman, who hired a suction dredger and shifted thousands of tons of sand, but no coins were found.

Since the 1890 attempt, many people have looked, including the legendary Roland Morris. He implied that he may have known where it was, after an argument with the National Trust about ‘rights to wreck’, he left. The NT told Roland to tell them where it was, he just laughed and told them he never would,

The last I can remember was in 2007, when a business man from Chippenham, hired a boat with some local divers including myself, to try and excavate the site. We visited twice in 2007 and recovered hundreds of artefacts but no coins. The first visit found the inlet, which was dammed in 1845, to be completely void of sand, nothing was found apart from some steel beams and a sounding lead. So either all the coins had all been removed, or they were never there in the first place. He is still looking.

Artefacts recovered during a 2006 attempt

Notes:

(2) Richard Larn 1987 A Diver Guide, Dive South Cornwall – 2nd Edition Page(s)116-17
(3) by Richard Larn 1996 A Diver Guide, Dive South Cornwall – 3rd Edition Page(s)166-69
(4) R. Larn 1983 The Diver Guide to South Cornwall – 1st Edition Page(s)134-35


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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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.

somabay

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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