A rudder which features a man’s face carved into the wood has been found in the Swash Channel Wreck. Archaeologists think that it was a Dutch trading ship which sank in the early 17th century.
Very little is known about this ship, discovered on the bottom of the English Channel near Poole Harbour, Dorset. It is thought to have been an armed trading vessel heading for the Americas, but how it came to be resting on the seabed off Dorset remains unclear. For the past 7 years, a project has been led by marine archaeologists from Bournemouth University to protect, excavate and find out more about the origin of the unknown ship.
Project leader Dave Parham, a senior lecturer in marine archaeology at BU, said:
“This is the first time this rudder has been seen above the surface in more than 400 years. There are no others of this type that have been found in the UK, and it is unusual for one like this to be recovered in its entirety – it is eight and a half metres long and weighs around three and a half tonnes.”
Artefacts that have been recovered from the wreck so far include cannons, leather shoes and wooden barrels. Other parts of the ship that have already been raised are some wooden carvings and a canister of cannon shot. The rudder was the last major part of the ship that has been raised. The rest of the wreck has been covered with sand for protection from seawater.
The rudder is was sent to York where it was conservated. After the conservation process finished, it was displayed in the Poole Museum.
“We’ve only recovered around 4 per cent of the wreck and the rudder is the single largest object that we’ve raised. It’s the culmination of seven years of hard work and it was a very moving experience. It’s a pleasant relief that it has all gone well. It is the ship itself that is significant – there are only a few wrecks like this in the world, and it tells us more about the beginnings of the large-scale international trade,” said Dave.
The Swash Channel Wreck project is a partnership between Bournemouth University and the Borough of Poole Museum Service. It has been funded by a £141,200 grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund.