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Storm uncovers wreck of the lost Schiedam

Ian Harvey

First found in 1971 by a local diver in Gunwalloe Church Cove in Cornwall, England, the wreck of the Schiedam, a Dutch merchantman sailing from Holland, has since then been lost under the sands of the cove. A recent storm uncovered it for two excited divers who have been searching for its resting place over the years.

The storm that uncovered the wreck allowed the divers to see three cannons on the sandy bottom- one which was resting on a rocky outcrop with the muzzle poking out. Around the rocks where it was found, the divers also found musket barrels and an iron hand grenade.  The video is available on YouTube of the wreck being explored by David Gibbins, one of the divers in the discovery.

Gunwalloe Church Cove Photo Credit
Gunwalloe Church Cove Photo Credit

The ship itself has had a turbulent past and has been in some adventures over time. The most notable was at the peak of its sailing career in 1683, when the ship and crew were captured and enslaved by Barbary pirates off the coast of Spain.

Soon after, the ship was captured again, but this time by a Royal Navy ship that sailed it into Tangier. Unfortunately, its life was cut short when it was driven into rocks off of Cornwall by a gale. It was part of a fleet traveling from Tangier to England carrying people, horses, and a mixed cargo of ordinance and tools.

After the ship broke open on the rocks, the locals plundered it for its cargo, sails, and ropes– a common occurrence back in that era when resources and lives were hard in the coastal settlements.

Hollar - Tangier circa 1670
Hollar – Tangier circa 1670

This ship, unlike many wrecks of its time, had a well-documented past; it is documented in the papers of the diarist Samuel Pepys, who assisted in the evacuation of Tangier as well as the same hand grenades that were found on the wreck.

The ordinance was one of the earliest finds of its kind in an archaeological site. It is known that grenades were used in the defense of the British Colony in Tangier before they had fled.

Today it is a protected wreck, and any further investigation of the remains of the Schiedam is carried out under the ‘Protection of Wrecks Act 1973’ and you can apply for a license to visit the wreck.  Further exploration is planned for the following year, Mail Online reported.

Map of Tangier under English rule, 1680
Map of Tangier under English rule, 1680

The “Poldark” TV series was filmed nearby, with the shipwreck scene filmed right above where the Schiedam wreck is.  The scene recreated similar events on shore and in the water as they might have been all those centuries ago.

Read another story from us: History that lies beneath the waves: Scotland’s concealed shipwrecks

Cast members in their role as Cornish villagers lit fires and torches to encourage a ship to turn towards land, resulting in the wrecking of the ship and the plundering of everything that could be carried away.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News