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Cannons of Britain's most valuable wreck discovered!

Underwater archaeologists have discovered and examined cannons from the wreck of the 17th century British ship “President”. The vessel, sailing from India with an extremely valuable cargo of diamonds and pearls, sank during a storm 334 years ago. The artefacts rested in the waters of Cornwall, hidden on the seabed under a layer of sand.
Published: June 14, 2018 - 15:03
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 16:54
Cannons of Britain’s most valuable wreck discovered!

Underwater archaeologists have discovered and examined cannons from the wreck of the 17th century British ship “President”. The vessel, sailing from India with an extremely valuable cargo of diamonds and pearls, sank during a storm 334 years ago. The artefacts rested in the waters of Cornwall, hidden on the seabed under a layer of sand.

 

Divers have found and documented seven cannons and an anchor, belonging to a vessel described as “Britain’s most valuable wreck”. The President ship, owned by the British East India Company, earned this title because of the cargo of diamonds and pearls it carried on its last voyage from India to England.

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The 17th century vessel “President” was not the first ship from the shore. Its name became a legend thanks to the attitude of its crew in battles with pirates. Despite their bravery and experience, the sailors, exhausted and starved from an 11-week voyage, did not manage to save the ship during a powerful storm on 4 February 1684, and as a result a strong storm smashed the “President” returning home against the rocks.

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Interestingly, the sinking of the ship was such a great loss that the site of the tragedy was even marked on a map of Cornwall of the time, which was created by the famous Dutch cartographer Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715). In 1684 the estimated value of the cargo on board was £100,000, which today would be the equivalent of around £8 million!

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However, despite the approximate position of the wreck, it was not until the late 1990s that divers reached the remains of the “President”. Because almost the entire crew, except for two men, lost their lives during the storm, and also because of the historical value of the find, the place was immediately protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act of 1973. Which, by the way, is a typical and very efficiently enforced measure in the British Isles.

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Since then, local divers Mark Milburn and David Gibbins of Cornwall Maritime Archaeology, under licence from the government agency Historic England, have been busy monitoring and surveying the wreck. Unfortunately the site of the shipwreck, known as ‘Loe Bar’, is not one of the most tranquil and diving here, is also difficult and demanding. Sometimes, to carry out a dive, you have to wait several months for favourable conditions.

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[blockquote style=”2″]”Loe Bar is usually a dangerous place to dive, but a recent period of calm weather allowed us to enter for the first time in many months. We were excited to see seven cannons and an anchor and quickly realised that we were dealing with a new, unknown part of this location that had never been explored before! In addition, everything is very close to shore, at a depth of just 7 metres!” – said Gibbins[/blockquote].

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The fact that previously unknown fragments of the wreck and objects have been discovered is not surprising in this area. The movement of the sand on the bottom can reveal anything one day and cover it the next. Therefore, the site of the sinking of the vessel “President” may still hold many surprises and secrets, waiting for their discoverers. For the last few years, everything connected with the wreck has been buried under a layer of sand.

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On the basis of the testimony of survivors William Smith and John Harshfield, a detailed account of the last voyage of the “President” was drawn up and included in a special booklet, together with a description of the clash with six pirate ships off the coast of Malabar in India. At that time, a salvo from the guns of the British ship, hit the powder magazine on the enemy ship, resulting in a massive explosion and the destruction of the enemy.

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[blockquote style=”2″]”Cannons are a common find on merchant shipwrecks from this period. Most vessels were armed at the time, but it is very unusual to know that these armaments were actually used, especially in such a colourful history. It’s a unique feeling to be able to see them for the first time, resting on the seabed.” – said Gibbins[/blockquote].

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Probably the extremely valuable cargo of the “President” has fired the imagination of many a daredevil. However, it should be remembered that diamonds are practically impossible to see in water, as they are transparent, while pearls resemble pebbles and gravel, of which there are countless, and in addition everything is in constant motion

Source: cornwalllive.com

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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