Aim to identify new shipwrecks

Archaelogical divers are to investigate an area off the Isles of Scilly where it’s believed Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘lost ship’, The Flying Joan, sank in 1617.

Last month, a piece of timber was retrieved, leading to speculation that it could be the remains of the vessel, which sank in a storm after it left Plymouth for Venezuela and the fabled treasures of El Dorado.

The hunt is part of an English Heritage project to investigate 88 hitherto unrecorded, pre-1840 coastal shipwreck sites to determine which, if any, should be accorded protected status.

 Diver carrying out a field survey on HMS Invincible in the Solent

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© Michael Pitts & Pascoe Archaeology Services

They include a possible Tudor wreck on Walney Island, near Morecambe Bay, and a paddle steamer, The Forfarshire, which foundered off the Farne islands in 1838 and made a heroine out of lighthouse-keeper’s daughter Grace Darling.

Although England is a seafaring nation and this month is the 40th anniversary of the Protection of Wrecks Act, maritime heritage has something of a Cinderella status-wreck sites pre-dating 1840 account for only 4% of the 37,000 known and dated sites, the majority being post-1914; only 47 historic boats and ships in England have statutory protection against unauthorised interference.

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