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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 8: The digital age

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As an early adopter of the internet, I have watched it grow over time and the last twenty years has seen it expand exponentially. Yet, only over the last few years or so, has this helped the wreck researcher. You still can’t beat going to the local county records office, or The National Archive but not everyone has the time for that. As more and more information becomes digitised, wreck information becomes more widely available on-line. Photos, newspapers archives and all sorts of information, new and old, just appears before your eyes, as you search.

Today, I received a notification from You-Tube that someone had commented on a video of mine. It was a few clips I put together from a dive on the wreck of the Caroni River, near Falmouth. It stated “RIP Captain Thomas Anthony Watson, age 99, on 15/01/17, 3rd officer on Caroni River when she was mined.” A previous comment on the same video by Sven, asked “If anybody finds an alarm clock in the central deck house, my uncle would like it back as he lost it when the Caroni River was mined in 1940 and he had to abandon ship.”

A remaning piece of the Caroni River

The Bay of Panama is a local shallow wreck but the hydrographic office’s co-ordinates were not right. Comparing the Google aerial view against the Bing view, you can see a shadow of the right size and shape on one of the views. The images were taken at different times, with different sand levels, the wreck was exposed with the low sand level. Another feature of Google Earth are the images. Every now and then there is an image of a shallow or exposed wreck. Most of the time these are recent images; the odd one is contemporary to the date of the wrecking.

Historic England (prev. English Heritage) have a website called PastScape. PastScape has thousands of historic records for sites on land and underwater. The underwater sites include anything which may be submerged including old quays etc., as well as wrecks. The wreck information isn’t 100% due to some of the sources and there are also duplicates, but there can be some great information that would normally be hard to find.

Whilst researching the Dispatch (1809), a new piece of information appeared. The Dispatch was originally reported as running aground near Lowland Point, near the Manacles. Within no time at all, the Dispatch was listed as being on Black Head. Survivors climbed up the rock face at Black Head; victims and horses washed ashore around Black Head. Years later, a cannon of the right age and type was found just below Black Head. The new piece of information that appeared on the PastScape website was from Lloyds of London. After running aground on Black Head, the Dispatch floated across Coverack Bay nearly full of water. That would have been in the direction of Lowland Point, where the original report stated that the Dispatch ran aground.

This photo was sent into me via email, it is the UB112.

In Cornwall we have many photo resources, which are being updated on a regular basis. One such site is www.cornishmemory.com. At the time of writing it has 31554 items and growing, not all the items are photos, there are also recorded interviews. Using the search keyword of “wreck” brings up 456 items, on the day of writing.

On the local BBC News today, there was an item about the sale of a silver cup, presented to a well known smuggler and a publican. Henry Cuttace ran the Ship Inn at Gunwalloe, now called the Halzephron Inn, a famous haunt of smugglers and ‘salvors’. The Halzephron has several posters with stories of wrecks and the ‘salvage’ of the cargoes. One night there was a shipwreck and the customers drank up and went salvaging. They returned later and paid their bar bills with some of their ‘salvaged’ coins. The silver cup on the news was presented to Henry Cuttace for his bravery in saving three crew from the wreck of the Norwegian brig, ‘Elizabeth’. PastScape has a record on the ‘Elizabeth’ but it is not listed anywhere else.

PastScape has thousands of wrecks, the trouble is, knowing what you are looking for in the first place!

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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