by Dave Johnston
Iain, Dan and Dave
A blisteringly hot day after several days of light, north or east winds, so high hopes for some decent visibility as we set off from Itchenor across a flat and busy Chichester Harbour. Heading out into the bay, the sea was like a mirror and the viz was looking hopeful; it wasn’t until we arrived at site that we realised exactly how good it was. We had top to bottom visibility and more, we could see the wreck and surrounding reef laid out before us. In about 15 years of diving the site, I’ve never seen it anywhere near this good!
First dive was on the main site. Dan did a GoPro video survey for the record as the site is exposing and eroding fast. Iain struggled with a floaty dry suit and Dave (having wisely reverted to his beloved, but ancient, semi dry for the summer) had a scan around the site and test-installed 3 types of heavy-duty tent pegs into the exposed clay bed immediately outside the beak, next to the existing datum. This was to test them in an easily-relocated position to see how secure they bedded into the clay, with a view to setting up some reference points and temporary lines in the area South of the 2019-gun site to allow systematic searching for the large number of loose artefacts, we have been finding there.
- Screw in plastic type – surprisingly easy to get in full depth (but will float!)
- bent rebar type – about 20 clouts with a palm sizes stone (yes I forgot to load the club hammer onto the boat!). Not sure how long they will last before corroding though.
- twisted aluminium type tent pegs – about 25 clouts with a palm-sized stone
No problem getting any of them into the clay. How long they will last is another matter.
Then Dave had a scout around. One timber in amongst the frames by the keel was very distinct with white-ish end grain, clearly it had only recently been exposed as just one corner was gribbled, despite the whole timber being well clear of the current seabed level.
This suggests major, recent scouring along the keel.
Along the western side of the main site there were clear patches of what appears to be lead sheeting between the layers of planking timbers (but he couldn’t get a decent photo).
Inside the hull there are now lots of barrels poking out of the sand, some we have known about for several years, others more recently exposed, especially in the sandy, more northerly part of the site, including one small one, maybe 30cm across,tucked in at front edge of the cannonball pile,
Then onto the 2019 gun site to continue the search for the artefact scatter we located here in late 2020. Between the 3 of us, we recovered:
one partial silver (hallmarked) shoe buckle.
336 musket balls (17.5mm nominal diameter) and 106 pistol balls(12.5 mm nominal diameter) – over 300 of these came from around one side of a single rock!
another musket, more concreated than the one which we recovered in 2020 and somewhat shorter with the barrel end missing, beyond what looks like a recent fracture in the concretion.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for another day like this!