Secrets of the Great
by PETER BARNETT
An underwater survey of shipwrecks on the infamous Goodwin Sands
off the Thanet coast is under way this week.
Thirty archaeological research divers, including a group from
North America, are investigating the men-o-war wrecks dating from the 17th
The Seadive Organisation is co-ordinating the project, which
runs until Sunday July 11, from a temporary base at Ramsgate Harbour.
Divers plan to probe a number of the early warships lost in the
Great Storm of 1703 which destroyed part of the Royal Navy fleet.
In a matter of hours during a fierce nighttime storm, four ships
- Mary, Northumberland, Restoration and Stirling Castle - were blown from
shelter off Deal onto the Goodwins.
All were lost together with 1,190 crew.
It was not until 1978 when a local fisherman snagged his nets on
the wreckage that divers located the deep sea burial site of the lost fleet. It
had lain undiscovered for centuries.
It was declared an important maritime heritage site and guarded
by the Protection of Wrecks Act.
The wrecks have been researched under licence when recourses and
the weather has permitted in the last 20 years.
Some artifacts have been raised, restored and put on display -
many at the East Kent Maritime Museum in Ramsgate.
Cllr. Sid Farmer, Thanet council cabinet member with maritime
responsibility, said "Project Man-O-War" was a unique opportunity for
specialist divers to examine an important part of Britain's's heritage.
He said: "These wrecks are of great maritime and
archaeological significance. The council is pleased to support this venture
which is attracting international interest."
Recent shifting movements on the Goodwin Sands have exposed some
of the wrecks and experts say that while this aids survey work, it also
increases the risk of deterioration to the fragile structure of the craft.
Results from the survey will form part of an international
maritime heritage conference to be held next year as part of the East Kent
Maritime Trust's Millennium celebrations.
Thanet Extra - Friday July 2, 1999