The wrecks range from 20th-century war casualties to 19th-century colliers that plied the East Coast Channel trading route.

Initial research based on study of historic records and fishermen's reports is already under way. By mid-2019 boat-based operations will begin using sonar scans to record the wrecks and create 3D virtual-reality models.

The wrecks project is part of a wide-ranging six-year programme called Seascape, managed by the Heritage Coast Partnership on behalf of a group of local, regional and national partners working in the coastal, marine and heritage sectors.

Lottery funding of £2.9m is being combined with £2m of partnership funding to finance the undertaking.

“We’re particularly excited by the undersea wreck surveys," commented Eric Wilton, General Manager of partner the National Trust.

"Because this is a soft-rock coastline, water-clarity isn’t as good as it is around Northumberland's Farne Islands, for example.  As a result, we don't know as much as we should about our heritage beneath the waves. Most people don’t know that porpoises, dolphins and even humpback whales are seen off our coastline.

“During the First World War, this was part of the East Coast War Channel. Keeping this open for shipping was vital to the war effort, and local fishing fleets acted as mine-sweepers. We already know there are wrecks from this era off our coast.

“There are so many important stories to be told, so many wrecks to be recorded and surveyed - and that’s just one element of the Seascape project."

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