So youve found a virgin wreck where no wreck should be! Shes your secret - well, yours and that of your buddy, the skipper and any other divers aboard. But no matter how secret you keep her, you just have to find out all about her.
|HERE TO START|
Completely clueless Start at Clue 1
Wreck on chart Go straight to Clue 2
Early naval vessel Check Clues 5 and 6
Old cannon On to Clues 6, 8 and 21
Know someone aboard Clue 24
Modern gun on stern Clue 12
Local shipwreck Go to Clue 9
Wartime casualty Go to Clues 5, 7, 12
In an old book Clue 6
Submarine Straight to Clue 16
Aircraft Direct to Clue 15
Someone aboard, very brave See Clue 5
Protected wreck Hurry to Clue 25
Old fittings in wreckage Clue 6
Marked on ancient chart Clue 3
Anchors on site Clues 6 and 11
Reported in old newspapers Clues 18, 19, 20
A court of enquiry Clue 24
Finding a photograph Clue 6, 7, 16
Captain courtmartialled Clue 5
Very, very old Clue 25
Thinking of salvage Clue 26
What was her name Where was she from and where was she going And why Was she sunk or did she sink And what is in those covered holds
Before you fling yourself into a riot of research, remember the first rule of wreck detection - let others do the work for you. In the thrill of the chase, its easy to start trawling over ground that countless others have dragged over before you.
First check the panel on the right to find out where to start, then follow the trail of clues to find out who is most likely to help you, and how to get in touch with them. Good hunting!
1 Your first move must be to make sure that your virgin really is untouched by divers hands. Check all the diving guides to your area. The authors have put in more hours of research for each chapter than most of you have spent under water.
There are now few areas of seabed off Britain not covered by at least one guide. Best known is the Diver Guide series, published by Underwater World and produced by the publisher of this magazine. Areas covered include Dorset; Isle of Man; Kent; North-east; Scotland (Northern Isles and East Coast); North-west Scotland; West Scotland; South Cornwall; South Devon; Sussex; Wight and Hampshire; and Yorkshire.
If your ship cant be found in any guide, you might well have made The Big Discovery.
2 Get the largest Admiralty chart you can find for your area and check that your shipwreck is not marked on it.
3 Consult the Wrecks Section of the Hydrographic Department of the MOD (The Wrecks Office, UK Hydrographic Office, Admiralty Way, Taunton, Somerset TA1 2DN, O1823-337900).
Show some respect, for you are now dealing with the guardians of an index containing computer data on 60,000 wrecks! Ask them something like this: Please let me have the print-out for a 37m wreck in position 51 04 20N, 01 29 27E on Chart No 1892.
The initial search fee of 20, paid in advance, covers up to five charted wrecks. Each further wreck will cost 3. If you were feeling flush or considered it important enough, you could ask for all wrecks in 20m of water between Bognor and Margate, or of 1000 tonnes or more between Cardiff and Oban. It would be wise to ask for a quotation first, however!
The Wrecks Section is extremely helpful and may waive fees on one of your later enquiries if you give it some useful information about a wreck of charting value. It has recently produced a new edition of the booklet NP96, which has full details of the Wrecks Sections service and other sources of information. A stamped self-addressed A4 envelope gets a copy.
The Hydrographic Office also has a magnificent collection of old charts. One might just carry the name of your wreck!
4 In the unlikely event that the Wrecks Section cant help, your next port of call is Lloyds of London. That means contacting another group of helpful, friendly people - the staff at Guildhall Library, where all Lloyds vast records are kept (Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ, 0171 332 1868/ 70). They welcome a visit, but will also answer questions by letter. For detailed research you may need written help.
The Library Bookshop can supply you with a Guide to the Lloyds Marine Collection (5.25 including p&p). An SAE will also get you a free four-page guide to marine sources at Guildhall Library. These include Lloyds List and its indexes, and the voyage record cards from 1741 to the present.
The Registers of Shipping from 1764 and the Merchantile Navy List from 1857 are there, too. For shipwreck material you might need to look at the Lloyds Shipping Index from 1880 to 1920. From 1920 you will need Lloyds Weekly Casualty Reports.
Follow the wreck-hunters rule - get them to help you find likely sources.
5 If you suspect that your ship is an early naval vessel, you might need one of the biggest shipwreck sources in the world - the Public Record Office (Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Surrey TW9 4DU, 0181 392 5200). You can get a free readers ticket at the entrance on production of a passport, UK driving licence or credit card.
Throw yourself on the mercy of one of the staff, who will guide you through the computer-style ordering process for documents. They wont answer inquiries by phone or letter, but will tell you over the phone whether they hold material relevant to your search.
There is an enormous amount of material to search in the PRO. Youll find the Digest of Courts-Martial, for example, which covers trials of officers who lost their ships between 1755 and 1806. Earlier wrecks might be mentioned in the State Papers from the time of Henry VIII.
Reports from flag officers or captains describing the loss of ships under their command are among other official letters to the Admiralty from 1698 (these are in ADM1). If the ship was salvaged or wrecked close to a dockyard port, try the High Court of Admiralty records.
More recent shipping matters are to be found in the ships logs, letters from port agents, reports from lookouts and the Admiraltys weekly reports for coastal stations. London Gazette listings of gallantry awards are here, and losses of merchantmen under naval escort are also recorded (ADM137 is the place to look).
These references give only a tiny part of the PROs holdings. Records Information Leaflet No 65 will give you more details.
The PRO can also supply a list of private researchers who might be prepared, at a price, to do your research - just ask for Independent Researchers List No 20. The PRO doesnt vouch for the researchers, but they are interviewed before being put on the list.
6 Another vast storehouse of ship and shipwreck material is the National Maritime Museum (Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF, 0181 858 4422).
To obtain a free readers ticket, write or call in bringing proof of identity. The Library holds more than 100,000 books dating from 1474, as well as 20,000 pamphlets and 20,000 bound periodicals. Youll find the Mercantile Navy List from 1857, the Nautical Magazine reports of wrecks and courts of inquiry from March 1832 to date; old charts, ancient treatises on cannon and anchors - just about everything written about ships. The librarians themselves are incredibly helpful, which is good because youll need a guide!
The library leads to the Manuscripts Collection. This has original documents of the maritime greats, Admiralty and Dockyard records, business papers of shipping companies, brochures of liners, crew lists and more (see Clue 24).
There is also a huge collection in the Ship Plans Section and you can buy copies of the pictures in the Historic Photographs Section.
If you can send a photograph of a fitting from your ship, such as a cannon or anchor, with measurements, the staff will have a go at dating it for you. If you want to see the ships plans of, say, the liner Alaunia, mined in 1916 off the Sussex coast, they can supply them and will tell you who holds plans of the ships they dont have.
If you cant visit the Library, there is a research service. Send details of what you want to know - an hours research costs 18. You will be told which services were consulted and which other sources you might want to try.
7 Was your wreck a war casualty If not, dont waste your time here. The Department of Printed Books at the Imperial War Museum (Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ, 0171 416 5000) is a source only for RN and merchant ships lost by enemy action in both World Wars. It holds some brief accounts of losses, but is good on official and ship histories and has some fine photographs.
8 Pretty certain shes a Navy ship Then the Naval Historical Branch (3-5 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HW, 0171 218 5449) should be able to connect you with a mass of detail.
9 This is the place to draw your attention to smaller sources. Dont despise the local museum, even if it is just two rooms of a house down a back street - it might surprise you. One wreck-hunting diver found out that his secret was not so secret when he saw his ships bell on a dusty shelf! Some local museum curators have vast collections of photographs of local wrecks and books full of references.
10 And dont, whatever you do, forget your local library. The loss of your ship may be noted in old local books, but not in grander works. The library can also get hold of other, expensive books for you. The national network of libraries is yours for a matter of pence per order.
It will get books long out of print. A classic example is the Wreck and Rescue series, published by D Bradford Barton Ltd, which covered lifeboat operations off the coasts of Essex, Dorset, Cornwall (three volumes), the Bristol Channel (two volumes), Wales and South Devon. If you see them in secondhand bookshops, snap them up!
11 Your local library is also the place to consult other useful books. The Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam 1824-1962 (DODAS in the wreck-hunting trade!) comes in two volumes and is compiled from Lloyds Register of Shipping. There is a companion volume - Modern Shipping Disasters 1963-1987.
Anchors are good for dating. Two books that might help are Anchors by N E Upham (Shire Publications Album No 110), which has a list of sources, and History Under the Sea by Mendel Peterson (Smithsonian Institution Press, USA), which is also good for cannon.
Then there is the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles by Richard and Bridget Larn. Shipwrecks of all ages are crammed into these weighty and expensive (49) volumes. Nine of them will eventually cover all the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland and there are nearly 8000 wrecks per volume. It is published by Lloyds Register of Shipping (71 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 4BS, 0171 709 9166).
12 If your wreck has a reasonably modern gun on the stern, it is likely to be in Lloyds War Losses of the First or Second World War. Those two volumes are in Guildhall Library, where you will also find reprints of the original Government listings of British Vessels Lost at Sea 1914-1918 and 1939-45. These might help if your wreck is a wartime casualty.
There was a similar listing for Foreign Vessels, Sunk or Damaged by the Enemy 1914-18, produced by the Naval Staff (Trade Division) of the Admiralty in 1919. To my knowledge it has never been reprinted. Try Guildhall, Imperial War Museum or the PRO.
Another good reference book for wartime sinkings of World War One is A J Tennants British Merchant Ships Sunk by U-Boats in the 1914-1918 War.
13 If you want to buy maritime books, many of which are long out of print, consult the experts. Mainmast Books (251 Copnor Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire P03 5EE, 01705 645555) supplies a free copy of its Wreck List if you send an SAE. Underwater Books (104D High Street, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3ES, 01424 435905) also offers old photos and engravings of wrecks.
14 Do you think your wreck was ever buoyed as a danger to shipping The Trinity House Lighthouse Service (Tower Hill, London EC3N 4DH, 0171 480 6601) might be able to help you. Unfortunately, its pre-1940 records were destroyed in the London Blitz.
15 An aircraft The Ministry of Defence (MOD S10b (RAF), Royal Air Force, Innsworth, Gloucester GL3 1EZ, 01452 712612) is the contact for groups wishing to raise military aircraft.
16 A submarine Try the following:
The German U-boat Archives. Contact Horst Bredow (U-Boot Archiv, Bahnhofstrasse 57, 27478 Cuxhaven, Altenbruch, Germany, 00 49 4722 322).The Royal Navy Submarine Museum (Haslar Jetty Road, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 2AS, 01705-510354) has a good photo library for prints.Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918: Der Handelskrieg mit U-Booten, by Rear Admiral Arno Spindler. These five volumes are in Guildhall Library, and the first four are translated into English.The German Submarine War 1914-1918 by R H Gibson and Maurice Prendergast (Constable, 1931).Axis Submarine Successes, 1939-1945 by Jurgen Rohwer (Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1983).HM Submarines in Camera by Paul Kemp and Commander J J Tall.
17 If you are pretty sure that your wreck was an Allied merchantman and a casualty of war, and you have a likely name, the Department of Transport (War Risk Insurance Office, Room P1/085, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 3EB, 0171 276 5604) should be able to help with ownership of the hull and the cargo.
18 Do you think the loss of your ship rated newspaper coverage If so, the first paper to try is The Times, which is on microfilm from 1785 to the recent past and available in most big public libraries. A phone call will tell you if your library has it, and you can reserve a seat at a microfilm viewer.
You should also find out if it has Palmers Yearly Index to The Times and/or the Official Index, produced by the paper itself. Do not put too much faith in Palmer, as he tends to leave out wrecks!
19 Your wreck might have been overlooked by The Times, but dont give up. The British Library Newspaper Library (Colindale Avenue, London NW9, 0171 412 7353) houses a superb collection, including English provincial, Scottish and Irish newspapers from about 1700, and London journals from 1801.
There are some gaps in the run of the early papers, but with luck you will find another journal to cover it.
A readers ticket can be issued on the spot on proof of identity. Call the library and ask for leaflets about its service. It can supply photocopies of the page with your wreck on it once you track it down.
20 Seen those wonderful shipwreck drawings in the Illustrated London News The magazine tended to report on wrecks at great length, so perhaps theres one of your ship. Picture Library Archivist Elaine Hart has files going back to 1842 (20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PF, 0171 805 5585).
21 Many divers think cannon are the perfect way to identify a ship. Not so. They can be a great help in dating your wreck, but were often switched between ships and could be used for nearly 100 years.
Two experts can help you get the most out of your cannon: Robert Smith, Head of Conservation at the Royal Armouries (Armouries Drive, Leeds LS10 1LT, 0113 220 1920); and Austin C Carpenter (The Coach House, Beacon Road, Ivybridge, Devon PL21 OAQ).
Send all measurements possible, plus a good photograph and SAE.
22 Something written about your wreck but you dont know where Call Dillingham and Associates (2a Sudley Terrace, High Street, Bognor Regis, Sussex PO21 1EU, 01243 820984).
Dave Dillingham operates survey boats and maintains a shipwreck bibliography database of more than 4000 shipwreck entries, which can locate books, magazine articles and other references by geographical area. There is no charge at present, but it will be published in volume form soon, and will include Australian and US wrecks.
23 If by now you know the name of a crewman, you can ask for help from the Department of Transport General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen (Block 2, Government Buildings, St Agnes Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff CF4 4YA, 01222 586206).
24 Was there a Court of Inquiry into your merchant ship Ask Stephen Grace, Head of Marine Information at the Marine Safety Agency (Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road, Southampton SO15 1EG, 01703 329 297).
Stephen holds the Board of Trade Courts of Inquiry reports from 1876. Hell send you a photocopy and then youre in luck - the story of the loss of your ship will be given in fine detail.
25 You must have known from the first dive on your wreck whether she was very, very old, and should have checked that you are not diving on an historic, protected wreck. Ring the Archaeological Diving Unit (Scottish Institute of Maritime Studies, University of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland KY16 9AJ, 01334 462919) at once!
26 If you intend to carry out salvage work on your ship, consult the Salvage Association (Braemar/Salvage Association, Marlow House, 1A Lloyds Avenue, London EC3N 3AL, www.braemarsa.com).
Divers have reported finding the association somewhat off-putting - not unfriendly, but not exactly welcoming. Its problem is that it is snowed under with divers wanting details of ships from its records of cargoes and ownership, which go back to 1860.
The SA does not see itself as a provider of shipwreck identification, rather a protector of sunken ships and their cargoes on behalf of the owners. So unless you are seriously considering salvage, leave it alone!