Mark Bullen photographed at the moment he discovered the main mast bell


SKIPPER IAN TAYLOR LOOKED ACROSS AT ME and nodded. I think shes ready to dive, he said, referring to the tidal flow.
Is there much there still I asked.
Not much, but its diveable. Ian had hooked into yet another deep virgin wreck for us to explore. He flicked a 10p coin overboard, and we watched as it descended through the blue water, glinting in the sun as it spun into the depths. Vis looks good, he said. Identification should be a breeze for you guys today.
The day was 9 June 2005, and it had all the signs of one of those classic wreck-diving days. The sun was high,
the sea calm, the divers in high spirits as they helped one another with their equipment and suits. We had ventured west from Weymouth into Cornish waters aboard the dive-boat Skin Deep.
Get kitted up then, said Ian with a note of urgency. I shouted across the noise of the engines to my dive partner Mark Bullen: All systems go, Mark - five minutes, mate. Mark knows the drill, and we had both dived virgin wrecks many times before, but today would be different. The wreck below was to become very special to both of us.
As our skipper pulled the boat round, Mark and I stepped into the sea in our technical diving equipment, bail-out cylinders side-mounted as back-up to our closed-circuit rebreathers. It was a relief to shed all that weight on entry, and descend the anchorline into the beautifully clear water.
Leaving the sunlight and using a torch beam alone, our first job on reaching the wreck was to lash the grapnel to it, securing the way down for our colleagues above.
My gauge indicated 90m and, with the partial pressure stabilised in our Inspirations, the virgin wreck was ours to explore.
The safe bet was to navigate our way along the obvious hull side of the ship until our eyes adjusted to the darkness. We could travel some distance without worrying about failing to find the
upline again.
Following Mark and just a few metres into our exploration, I saw that the hull had broken down. Sprawled in front of us were some rather neat-looking porcelain plates.
Mark paused for further investigation but this was his bag of china. I had no right to invade. I pushed on, and the hull once again began to take shape.
Before long I reached the end of the wreck. Which end, I didnt know.
I found myself investigating what seemed to be the top of a wreck sitting upright on the seabed.
My heart almost missed a beat as I realised what I was seeing. I could have sworn it was a ships bell on a hanger that had fallen onto the deck!
Was it possible that identification had come so soon It was a bell, albeit a small one. I picked it up, rubbed the face with my gloved fingers and could feel, even through the marine growth, a degree of indentation on it.
Mark arrived, and patted me on the shoulder as a sign of respect. Without wasting time, our prize was sent on its way up in a rather large bag.
On the surface, Ian had his work cut out. Carl Spencer, who was up there with him, had chosen not to dive today. What we had discovered was a fully square-rigged clipper ship, its holds full of colonial cargo!
Carl recalls the excitement topside: The surface conditions were tremendous, flat calm and you could see for miles. All around us lift-bags were breaking the surface, but as we pulled that particular bag out of the water we could hear the sound of a bell ringing.
Captain Taylor said: That will be the ships bell, then! The object inside felt small, but as we opened the sack it was of course the bell, with its clacker still inside and ringing its heart out.
As we opened the other bags we were amazed at the fabulous and massive amounts of porcelain inside, plates, glassware, figurines and statues!
It was unreal. That was a day I regret choosing to opt out of the dive.
Ian removed some of the growth on the bell and could make out the name: Kingsbridge London 1869. We had made a positive identification on our first dive.
Ian had archive records of many of the wrecks lost in the area stashed inside Skin Deeps wheelhouse, and even before I arrived at the surface he had a full account of the ships history.
We didnt know it, but down below exploration continued on a ship that sank in collision on passage to Australia, laden with colonial cargo valued at 40,000 at the time! We had discovered
a wreck with a classic maritime story.
The Kingsbridge, a vessel of 1497 tons, had left London on 10 October, 1874, on a voyage to Sydney, carrying a full 3000 tons of cargo. A moderate breeze was blowing, and through the early-evening darkness Captain Symonds could clearly see Cornish shore-based lights on his starboard quarter.
At 6.45pm, four days later, a green light was seen on the port bow.
Chief Officer McDonald heard the report and came up on deck. He told Mills, the man at the wheel, to keep the vessel close to the wind. By then the captain had joined McDonald, and they watched the light draw closer.
When the green light of the approaching ship was within hailing distance, they shouted: Ship ahoy! Port your helm! There was no reply, and the helm of the Kingsbridge was put hard down. Within minutes, just as her sails had been lifted, the disastrous collision occurred.
The other vessel, the Candahar, struck the Kingsbridge stem on the after-part of the port main rigging, cutting her nearly in half.
Such was the violence of the blow that the Kingsbridge sank within three minutes under the Candahars bows.
Several of the crew clung to the bowsprit and the foremost gear of the Candahar. Others jumped into the water, and some were saved.
The captains daughter had been playing the piano. She and her mother were fetched on deck from their cabin by the chief mate just
at the moment of the collision.
Together with the captain and eight of the crew, including the second mate and the boatswain, they went down with the vessel.
The Candahar was another square-rigged clipper of 1418 tons, also laden with colonial cargo for Australia. She began to take on water, and her fore compartment was soon full. Her sail was shortened and she bore up for Falmouth. She arrived there at
1 oclock in the morning and landed the Kingsbridges 20 survivors.
The Cornish landscape was a welcome sight as I surfaced after three hours of decompression. Back onboard, it was time for celebration, Skin Deep style.
It was one of those golden wreck-diving days that well remember for years to come.
With our best-kept secret of a new shipwreck laden with cargo, the second leg of explorations on the Kingsbridge began in June 2006.
Now we could investigate the cargo further, and shoot stills and video to expand our knowledge and understanding of the site.
The wreck lies completely upright over a gravel seabed, rising some 5m at its highest point. Kingsbridge was a registered Lloyds class A1 vessel, and evidence of this can be seen on the site.
The helm steering position can be seen on the stern, close to where the stern bell was located. Here, where the wreck stands proud, the rudder can be seen, completely intact.
With 3000 tons of cargo still present, including holds full of china, the visiting diver can easily be distracted by these areas of the wreck. The iron hull and holds also contain copper sheets, metal rods and all sorts of unknown cargo.
No doubt the ship sank bow-first, because there is great damage where she struck the seabed.
Somewhere among the wreckage there must be a wonderful figurehead, or at least the remains of one.
The bow is to the east, where a large fishermans anchor can be seen on its side. A smaller, perhaps spare, anchor lies close to a huge pile of grinding millstones.
It was here on a photographic dive in 2006 that Mark Bullen began squealing through his Inspiration mouthpiece.
Confused at his sudden outburst, I looked over his shoulder and there, brightly lit by his torch in among the mill-stones, was a large ships bell.
Sure enough, my diving partner and great friend had discovered the ships main forward mast bell. With the water clarity at its best, we paused and took a moment to take some photographs of that special moment.
In June 2007, two years after our initial discovery in June 2007, we began a third leg of exploration. We began to discover just how vast a variety of cargo was present on the vessel. We found Greek statuettes and cut-glass decanters.
Divers Teresa Telus and Barry Smith were discovering wonderful porcelain figurines, many of which carried figures of Christ or Biblical motifs.
The Kingsbridge will in time become one of those classic British must-do wrecks on any technical divers list.
For now, we will continue recording and documenting the site, and just think ourselves lucky to have been involved in British wreck diving history.

Hold
Hold upon hold full of plates, bowls and other crockery can be seen all over the wreck.
For
For 133 years this porcelain figure of Christ had stood proud on the portside seabed.
The
The Kingsbridge at Campbells Wharf Circular Quay in West Sydney, around 1870.
Mark
Mark Bullen examines a section of steering quadrant gear.
An
An open cargo hold exposes hundreds of bottles.
Bullen
Bullen displays the forward mast bell he discovered, brought back to the surface after 132 years.
Barry
Barry Smith unloads his bag of artefacts before proudly showing his treasure.
Visiting
Visiting US diver Richie Kohler displays a Greek statuette recovered from the wreck.
Among
Among other artifacts is the ships little stern bell, recovered by Leigh Bishop in June 2005.
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