Two Mystery Merchant Shipwrecks Now Protected

Two Mystery Merchant Shipwrecks Now Protected

Two yet-to-be-identified but well-preserved shipwrecks involved in merchant trading in slate and coal by river and sea in England in the mid-to-late 19th century have been granted protection.

A three masted ship, similar to WA08 which sank in the Thames Estuary, Essex in the mid-to-late 19th century, is docked at the busy Southampton Docks, with other sailing vessels visible in the background. Date: 1878

The two wooden cargo vessels, known as GAD23 off Goodwin Sands in Kent and WA08 in the Thames Estuary in Essex, have been protected by scheduling. This means recreational divers can dive them but their contents are protected by law and must remain in situ.

GAD23 -  also known as the Bowsprit wreck because the long spar which runs out of the sailing ship’s bow is still visible - is a near-complete wooden cargo vessel lying on the seabed off Sandwich in Kent. The sail-powered vessel rests on its keel and was carrying a large consignment of coal when it sank.

Its remains are at risk of degrading because its hull is exposed to the elements due to shifting tides. Only 26 wrecks have been identified as sail-powered colliers, so the wreck known as GAD23 is a rare example of a formerly very common cargo ship.

WA08 is a well-preserved wreck of a mid-to-late 19th-century wooden cargo ship discovered in 2016 in the Thames Estuary during a routine survey by the Port of London Authority. 

It probably had three masts and was carrying a large cargo of Cornish roofing slates when it sank, possibly through running aground on the West Barrow Sands. 

Although part of the hull and deck are missing, the wreck is in remarkable condition, with features such as parts of masts, the rudder and the bowsprit - the long spar which extends from the vessel’s bow - surviving. This wreck is at risk of decay due to shifting sands.

Historic England

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