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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 14: Wrecks and salvage, the Cornish way

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

Part 14: Wrecks and salvage, the Cornish way.

Researching wrecks can lead to finding many tales of wrecks and salvage.

You may have seen the Poldark episode where they went down to a wreck on the shore, just how realistic was that? On the same beach as the Poldark wreck, there was a real wreck from 1684, the Schiedam. When it ran aground, the locals gathered on the shore, helping everyone off the wreck. No one died and the official reports stated, very little was thought to have been taken except for a musket or two. There is also a wreck from the right era for the Poldark program, the Dollar Cove wreck, covered in the last rambling.

Schiedam cannon off Dollar Cove where the Poldark programme was filmed

On the contrary, one of my favourite stories from 1720:

‘They write from Falmouth of the 18th inst. that a Dutch ship from Nantes run on shore near that port laden with brandy and saffron. She might have been got off but, the Country People coming so thick, they were obliged to leave her. But some of those plunderers, having drank so much brandy and being busy in the hold with a candle, set fire to the brandy, by which means the ship and cargo were destroyed and two of the ruffians perished in the flames. We are informed that 7 or 8 more of their gang are imprisoned and ’tis thought examples will be made of them according to the Act of Parliament.’ (Richard and Bridget Larn 1995 Shipwreck index of the British Isles, volume 1 : Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset)

I suppose the brandy was just too much of a temptation for those ruffians.

In 1751 there was another wreck, on the north Cornish coast:

`On the 24th ult. in the night, a ship was lost at Redreeth near St.Ives, and all the crew perished. A large quantity of logwood and pieces of eight are saved, a pocket book also was taken up with the name of Walter Brown upon it. The said ship is supposed to be the ST ANTHONY, Brown, from the Canaries for London.’ (Lloyd’s 1969 Lloyd’s list)

It was nice that the logwood and pieces of eight were saved but the crew were not.

4 reale coins from Rill Cove (Kerris Read)

When the Kerris Read, a wooden fishing boat ran aground in 1976, there was no looting. It was at the bottom of tall and steep cliffs. When divers went to investigate the wreck of the Kerris Read, they found many silver coins around the wreck. The silver coins were Spanish, minted in Mexico or Spain, the newest being around 1616. They recovered a large number of the coins, they still appear on eBay today, from all over the world. There is no record of a wreck of that age in the area, it is doubtful if anyone would have seen it at the time, because of it’s location. There is a record of a brigantine that sank in 1839, at the exact same location. There is a remote chance that the coins were being carried by that ship, there are records of 100+ year old coins being used to pay for supplies in foreign ports. One thing that is a little strange, there are no remains of the Kerris Read there, perhaps that was salvaged. It wouldn’t be the first time. A well known local diver once salvaged a sunken trawler, it was then used as a salvage vessel itself.

During the 1980’s, I worked in a builder’s merchants during the day. I remember one of my customers coming into the store asking about the price of Mahogany, an expensive hardwood. A couple of days later, he turned up with some hardwood to show me. He was not happy when I told him it was the much cheaper Meranti and not Mahogany. He said he had risked life and limb, climbing down the cliffs to recover the timber. He said there was loads of it. Some local building companies had taken all their staff off their current jobs, to recover some of the wood. I cannot remember the name of the ship, nor the exact year, I just remember a very upset customer with Meranti.

On March 26th, 1997, the MV Cita ran aground on the Scillies. Many locals helped clear up the cargo, removing items from along the coast.

Who was keeping what? No one knew. The police made records of who took what, certain items ended up in the local society. One container had Quinnsworth bags, bound for Ireland, they were used in shops for months following the wreck of the vessel. Even a seat off the bridge was taken and fitted to a local dive boat. No one was prosecuted for taking any items.

It’s probably a good job the MSC Napoli didn’t come aground in Cornwall in 2007, it would have been chaos. Mind you, those Devon folk made a good job of it…

MSC Napoli run aground in 2007


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.

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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