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Time capsule wreck reveals its secrets

Television viewers across the South East tonight (Thursday) will be sharing a Deal man's passion with the deep. Bob Peacock, 43 is the licensee of the Stirling Castle, named after a Royal Navy ship that sunk on the Goodwin Sands in a great storm of 1703.

the sunken British warship in its watery grave is featured in a First sight programme on BBC2 at 7.30pm, first shown on BBC South.

"The Stirling Castle is so exciting because it is a time capsule being exposed, but the problem is there is not enough time to do with work on the ship," said Bob.

BBC's programme Treasure Tradegy investigates the question of whether the rich collection of historic shipwrecks off the Kent coast is being neglected.

"Wrecks are being destroyed by the win and tide, which is very sad. I would really like to see proper surveys completed," said Bob, a former engineer at Richborough Power Station. Yet the keen divers who venture underwater are amateurs, going down in their spare time at their own expense. Cash to finance professional investigations would be useful, plus the provision of site wardens and archaeological supervisors.

Bob has listed his recommendations to the advisory committee for historic wreck sites, which comes under the umbrella of the Department of Culture, Media and Sports.

He owns General's Meadow, the residential home for the elderly in Walmer, and most of his spare time is consumed by his work with the protected wreck sites on the Goodwins.

His interest in the ships' remains developed after he took up diving as a new hobby in 1976 at a club in Thanet.

"I started with underwater photography, but conditions were poor in this area. An archaeology diving unit was being formed and divers were looking for aeroplanes," he said.

But instead the divers stumbled across wrecks, which looked more promising than any aircraft, and Bob's interest developed.

He is now licensee of three wrecks on the Goodwins and is part of a team continuing surveys into the Stirling Castle, Northumberland and Restoration.

The three ships were forced to shelter in the Downs as appalling weather interrupted the British fleet's journey, in the time when England was at war with France.

Horrendous seas built up on the Goodwins and many vessels sunk, with the loss of hundreds of man.. On just four ships, with 1,116 people on board, there was just one survivor.

Bob has enjoyed researching the history of the three ships he has been involved with an discovered a 1704 book by Daniel Defoe called The Storm, which mentions the Stirling Castle.

The BBC team featured in tonight's programme went diving in the summer, one of 44 dives on the wrecks last year.

This year Bob's diving starts on the Sands in May, but before then he is organising a conference at Pfizer for the East Kent Maritime Trust when he is giving a lecture about the Castle.

For tickets phone 01843 587765

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