Shipwreck site, west of the Crim Reef, Scilly - Todd Stevens

History

This site is of an unknown wreck originally found in the early 1970ís by a crayfish diver called Peter Grosch.  Grosch was part of the Roland Morris team searching at that time for the 1707 disaster ships HMS Romney and HMS Eagle.  Once located only nine hours of work was expended on the Crim sites by the Morris team.  Very little work has been done on them since due to the inaccessible position, the depth of water over the site, and the fact that no recompression chamber or nitrox facility exists on the Isles of Scilly.

The Crim [ts]

Morris produced a site plan from observations taken by Peter Grosch of the wreck.  Morris believed this and two other cannon sites on the Crim to be of one ship that was English in origin and that of HMS Eagle.  When the Eagle, now a protected wreck, was finally proven to be well to the South on the Crebinicks near the Bishop rock lighthouse, the site on the Crim was then believed by Morris to be that of the Romney.  This has never been proven.  Some diving was later performed by local divers who then believed the site was more likely to be a Dutch ship. Again there has been no proof of this put forward.

Islands Maritime Archaeological Group

After chancing on the site during a deep drift dive in 2003 I continued to visit the wreck alone with only my wife Carmen as boatman. By 2004 I had produced a preliminary site plan to work with and over time completed a more accurate drawing of the site.  The site plan produced, although not to scale, is a very good representation of the site. Understandably, due to the narcotic effect of diving on compressed air at depth, 40 meters average, this makes the reading of a tape measure or any tasks performed on this site rather difficult.

In 2005 Ed Cummings & Robin Burrows, joined in the work.

Since then a mooring was placed on the wreck and video footage of the site has been taken to help create an even more accurate site plan.

Identification

The only evidence to identification has come from three separate pottery shards and clay pipes raised during work.  These seem to prove the site to more likely be Spanish or eastern Mediterranean in origin. The pottery samples were Identified by pottery expert Sarah Jennings and dated between 1500 & 1700.   One shard was identified as the handle from a Spanish Star Costrel, another as the partial base of a Spanish Albarello.  The pieces of a very large pot she stated as, although quite common in type and found throughout Europe, possibly originating from Spain also.

Further evidence that the ship could be Mediterranean in origin is in the types of clay pipes we have been finding. All are from the eastern Mediterranean area, and probably Ottoman Empire as identified by pipe expert Dr Higgins. Dr Higgins suggested these pipes are circa 1650 or before.

(All the finds above are placed in the Isles of Scilly Museum.)

Guns and Anchors

The most common Spanish ships of around 1600 were known to have been of around twenty guns only.  This one wreck site holds with that amount of guns.  The guns on the site are all small in calibre and although we havenít been able to gauge them accurately, they appear to be 4 to 6 pounders.

If the wreck on the plan is in its entirety on the seabed then the hooped artefact in close proximity to the bower anchors is probably from the bowsprit thus denoting the bows.  Similarly guns 1 & 3, which are much longer than all the others on the site, could be stern chasers also possibly denoting the orientation of the wreck site.

Left: Metal hoops

As regards the site possibly being Spanish, it is interesting to note that the two bower anchors on the deepest end of the site, appear to be almost devoid of flukes and also seem to be thinly made and lacking in any real substance, a trait of the early Spanish style of anchor. "As weak as a Spanish anchor" as I believe the saying goes.  The smaller anchor on the site is different entirely and we are not sure if it even relates to the wreck.

Very few opportunities to visit the wreck present themselves each year as diving can only be conducted on this site after relatively long periods of calm easterly weather.  Further to this it can only be visited at certain states of tide.  One hour before low and on low are the only times it can safely be dived. One must be out of the water by one hour after low water otherwise the tide is likely to take the diver downwards. Before low the tidal direction comes from the east so diving is performed in the lee of the reef.  However, after a very short slack period the tide then comes from the south and gradually builds in strength.  The visibility varies greatly from zero viz to on the odd occasion 40+ meters, with the divers being able to see the surface.  Generally though an average of around ten meters is experienced.

The Islands Maritime Archaeological Group, adopted the wreck through the NAS adopt a wreck scheme in 2005 and was handed an award of merit for our work. We hope to learn more about this wreck in the future. Locating the whereabouts of the other two gun sites to see if they are connected is one objective.

Site plan 2006 - Todd Stevens


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