Archaeologists to use dog DNA to investigate the mysterious Cattewater Wreck

Archaeologists to use dog DNA to investigate the mysterious Cattewater Wreck

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The Cattewater Wreck lies in mud on the seabed at Cattewater Close near the entrance to Sutton Harbor in Plymouth Sound. The ship sank in the early 16 th century and its remains became the first protected wreck following an underwater investigation in 1973. A number of artifacts, including cannons, have been recovered, although none of them have given scientists any clue as to the ships identity or the circumstances of its sinking.

However, the ship is thought to have been British and based in Plymouth on the basis that the ballast was sourced locally. The only other sources of information consist of an isotype of fish bones, discovered to have come from the North Atlantic, and the body of a dog. The scientists are now using DNA from the dog to try and discover more about the ship.

The dog is thought to be the only known casualty of the sinking and new information from analysis of its DNA could provide important clues as to where the mystery ship originated from said Martin Read, speaking to The Plymouth Herald . Mr. Read is lecturer in maritime archaeology at the Plymouth University’s School of Marine Science and Engineering.

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The wreck was discovered after dredging brought up timbers and gun parts and the National Maritime Museum and the Department for the Environment decided to investigate it. The remains lie on the seabed on an east to west alignment for a distance of 20 meters (65 feet). Pottery, worked wood and a brass pin and buckle were among the artifacts brought to the surface. Other items included scraps of leather, rope textiles, animal bone and fragments of wrought iron cannons. The cannons have been preserved at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery .

The Cattewater is said to have looked something like this replica of this Croatian trading ship (15th and 16th century). ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The wood was identified as having a shape similar to that of timber from Tudor period flooring and the general construction was of the carvel style in which timbers are flush with each other rather than overlapping. The use of tree nails (wooden pegs) and nails in the fastenings pre-dates the first manuals in ship construction as does the fish-tailed flooring. Some guns brought up from the site in 1977 have a bore of 55 mm and were identified as ‘serpentines’, small bore guns that were mounted on swivels and which were obsolete by the 16 th century.

Naval artillery: A cast bronze culverin (front) and a wrought iron port piece (back), modern reproductions.

The pottery was dated to 1520-1620 and the keelson is similar to that of the Mary Rose. The leather finds included a purse conforming to a Tudor design.

An investigation of the material found at the wreck site, and the information gathered about it, was conducted between 1975 and 1978, known as the Cattewater Wreck Archive Project . It was funded by grants provided by the English Heritage National Heritage Protection Commissions Program. The material archive from this project is kept at Plymouth City Museum.

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The ship was a wooden vessel, probably with three masts, which seems to have been an early 16 th-century armed merchantman. If so it would have weighed between 200 and 300 tons. It was probably an offshoot of the developmental design revolution in naval ship building that occurred between 1480 and 1525 combined with the appearance of the first English mathematical formula for ship architecture in 1580. Plymouth University conducted a survey in 2006 using a sub-bottom profiler and again in 2007 with a multi-beam echo sounder, sidescan sonar and a caesium magnetometer.

Model of a typical merchantman of the 16 th and 17 th centuries . ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

More than 7,000 shipwrecks lie in waters off the coast of South West England. This particular ship wasn’t a well-known vessel like the Coronation or the Mary Rose. A Portuguese ship sank in the area in 1540 after hitting the German Rock but charts identify the location of that vessel being in the Tamar, not Plymouth Sound. A ship called The St James of the Groyne sank in a great storm on 17 th January 1494, breaking up on the shore. Its size was consistent to that of the Cattewater Wreck but there isn’t enough evidence to say anything further about this. Another possibility is that the wreck could have been one of a number of Dutch ships confiscated in 1597, one of which did indeed sink in the Cattewater, or it could be The Roebuck which was wrecked in 1694 while lining up for an expedition to the Western Isles under the command of the Earl of Essex, but again nothing is certain.

The wreck of the Copeland at South Shields, England, 2 November 1861.

Featured image: Painting of the "Flying Cloud" off the Isle of Wight, England.

By Robin Whitlock


It was so advanced, it took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.


The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres).

It is made of aluminium, with 18 joints in the arms and legs.

The suit is able to supply oxygen for up to 50 hours, and maintains communication with the surface via an optical cable.

It also has four 1.6 horsepower thrusters on the back to help the diver move around underwater at relatively high speeds.

Each suit weighs between 35 (226kg) and 42 stone (272kg).

Prices start at around £360,000 ($588,000).

Now archaeologists returning to the wreck will be able to use the Exosuit to more than double the depth they can dive at, and stay safely at the bottom for longer.

The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres), while still performing delicate tasks, said archaeologist Theotokis Theodoulou.

Up until now, divers had only been able to operate at a depth of 196ft (60 metres).

The suit, which makes the wearer resemble Buzz Lightyear, ‘expands our capabilities’, continued Mr Theodoulou, and ‘I'll be able to grasp, pluck, clench and dig. for several hours,’ he added.

Archaeologists believe many other artefacts are yet to be discovered in and around the wreck.

The Mechanism was found with a bronze statue of a youth in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome, and researchers are certain that other items on board still remain to be discovered.

‘We have good signs that there are other objects present,’ said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece's directorate of underwater antiquities, after exploratory dives in the area in 2012 and 2013.

‘There are dozens of items left, this was a ship bearing immense riches from Asia Minor,’ added Dimitris Kourkoumelis, another archaeologist on the team.

The Mechanism (pictured) was recovered from a Roman cargo shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Previous studies have shown it was used to chart the movement of planets and the passing of days and years. Scans in 2008 found that it may also have been used to predict eclipses

The Exosuit (pictured) built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres). It is made of aluminium, with 18 joints in the arms and legs. It also has four 1.6 horsepower thrusters on the back to help the diver move around underwater at relatively high speeds

The archaeologists also hope to confirm the presence of a second ship, some 820ft (250 metres) away from the original discovery site.

Antikythera, which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom.

He later had them all captured and crucified.

The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, which was involved in a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.

Foley has helped in outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years.

Antikythera (highlighted) which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom. He later had them all captured and crucified


The Mechanism was recovered in 1900 from the Antikythera wreck - a Roman cargo shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera.

It was discovered in a wooden box measuring 13 inchesx7 inchesx3.5 inches (340×180×90mm) and consists of bronze dials, gears and cogs.

A further 81 fragments have since been found containing a total of 40 hand-cut bronze gears.

The mechanism is said to have been created in around 100BC, and is believed to be the world’s oldest calculator.

Previous studies have shown that it was used to chart the movement of planets and the passing of days and years.

More than 80 fragments of the Mechanism have been found, containing a total of 40 hand-cut bronze gears (pictured)

Scans of the mechanism in 2008 found that it may also have been used to predict eclipses, and record important events in the Greek calendar, such as the Olympic Games.

Astronomer Professor Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University said at the time: 'It is more complex than any other known device for the next 1,000 years.'

The scans also revealed the mechanism was originally housed in a rectangular wooden frame with two doors, covered in instructions for its use.

At the front was a single dial showing the Greek zodiac and an Egyptian calendar.

On the back were two further dials displaying information about lunar cycles and eclipses.

The calculator would have been driven by a hand crank.

The mechanism recorded several important astronomical cycles known to the Babylonians hundreds of years before that help predict eclipses.

These include the Saros cycle - a period of around 18 years separating the return of the moon, Earth and sun to the same relative positions.

The device could track the movements of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - the only planets known at the time, the position of the sun, and the location and phases of the moon.

The researchers have been able to read all the month names on a 19-year calendar on the back of the mechanism.

The month names are Corinthian - suggest that it may have been built in the Corinthian colonies in north-western Greece or Syracuse in Sicily.

The device was created at a time when the Romans had gained control of much of Greece.

The Mechanism is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

‘We may find one or more monumental statues that were left behind in 1901, in the mistaken belief that they were rocks,’ Foley said.

As well as the new Exosuit, the Antikythera expedition will also use robot mapping equipment and new advanced closed-circuit ‘rebreathers’, which will allow divers much more time underwater.

‘We will have more bottom time than any previous human visitors to the site, because we dive with mixed gas rebreathers,’ the expedition's website said.

‘Each diver will have more than 30 minutes of bottom time per day, and will enjoy greater mental acuity and a larger safety margin than that of previous divers at Antikythera.’


She had suffered at least one episode of chronic illness or nutritional stress during childhood.

Richard Brunning, archaeologist at the South West Heritage Trust, said: 'Severed heads are not an unusual discovery for the Iron Age, but the placement of the skull in a wetland beside a wooden structure is very rare, possibly reflecting a practice of making ritual offerings in watery environments.'

In December, the Environment Agency reduced water levels around where the remains were found to allow the South West Heritage Trust and an archaeologist to investigate.

'Roger was walking his dog by the River Sowy when they found this skull, which could be nearly 2,400 years old', the Environment Agency tweeted.

'Roger was walking his dog by the River Sowy when they found this skull, which could be nearly 2,400 years old', the Environment Agency tweeted

The skull, which was found in Langport in Somerset, was reported to the police and analysed. Her head appears to have been deliberately removed at, or shortly after, death and could have been part of a ritual offering

'But how could @SomHeritage [the South West Heritage Trust] investigate the area when it's winter and full of water?'

Timber posts, driven deep into the river bed, were also discovered at the site and radio carbon dating is now being carried out to see if they are of the same period.

More posts were seen further down the channel, suggesting that other prehistoric wooden structures are present nearby.

Water levels have been returned to normal to protect the timber posts, along with any other archaeological remains still in the water.

23 A man possessed - Don Decker And The Rain

Whether we believe in hauntings or not, circumstances got downright weird for Don Decker after his grandfather passed away. Don was serving time in 1983 when it happened but got permission to attend the funeral, according to Historic Mysteries.

Afterward, Don would go into a trance, and then water would drip out of the walls and ceiling.

This was witnessed by several law enforcement officials in a residence, a pizzeria, and in Don's jail cell. It was believed that Don was possessed and could control the appearance of the rain.


The search by Europeans for a western shortcut by sea from Europe to Asia began with the voyages of Portuguese and Spanish explorers like Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama or even Christopher Columbus (an Italian explorer at the service of the King of Spain) in the 15th century. By the mid-19th century numerous exploratory expeditions had been mounted, originating mainly from the Kingdom of England (a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1707, a part of the United Kingdom from 1801). These voyages, when successful, added to the sum of European geographic knowledge about the Western Hemisphere, particularly North America. As that knowledge grew, exploration gradually shifted towards the Arctic.

Sixteenth and seventeenth-century voyagers who made geographic discoveries about North America included Martin Frobisher, John Davis, Henry Hudson, and William Baffin. In 1670, the incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company led to further exploration of the Canadian coastlines, interior and adjacent Arctic seas. In the 18th century, explorers of this region included James Knight, Christopher Middleton, Samuel Hearne, James Cook, Alexander MacKenzie, and George Vancouver. By 1800, their discoveries had conclusively demonstrated that no Northwest Passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans existed in the temperate latitudes. [9]

In 1804, Sir John Barrow became Second Secretary of the Admiralty, a post he held until 1845. Barrow began pushing for the Royal Navy to find a Northwest Passage over the top of Canada and to navigate toward the North Pole, organising a major series of expeditions. Over those four decades, explorers including John Ross, David Buchan, William Edward Parry, Frederick William Beechey, James Clark Ross (nephew of John Ross), George Back, Peter Warren Dease and Thomas Simpson led productive expeditions to the Canadian Arctic. Among these explorers was John Franklin, who first travelled to the region in 1818 as second-in-command of an expedition towards the North Pole in the ships Dorothea and Trent. Franklin was subsequently leader of two overland expeditions to and along the Canadian Arctic coast, in 1819–22 and 1825–27. [10]

By 1845 the combined discoveries of all these expeditions had reduced the unknown parts of the Canadian Arctic which might contain a Northwest Passage to a quadrilateral area of about 181,300 km 2 (70,000 sq mi). [11] It was into this unexplored area that the next expedition was to sail, heading west through Lancaster Sound, then west and south – however ice, land, and other obstacles might allow – with the goal of finding a Northwest Passage. The distance to be navigated was roughly 1,670 kilometres (1,040 mi). [12]

Command Edit

Barrow was now 82 years old and nearing the end of his career. He felt that the expeditions were close to finding a Northwest Passage, perhaps through what Barrow believed to be an ice-free Open Polar Sea around the North Pole. Barrow deliberated over who should command the next expedition. Parry, his first choice, was tired of the Arctic and politely declined. [13] His second choice, James Clark Ross, also declined because he had promised his new wife that he had finished polar exploration. [13] Barrow's third choice, James Fitzjames, was rejected by the Admiralty due to his youth. [13] Barrow considered Back but thought he was too argumentative. [13] Francis Crozier, another possibility, was of humble birth and Irish, which counted against him. [13] Reluctantly, Barrow settled on the 59-year-old Franklin. [13]

The expedition was to consist of two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, both of which had been used for James Clark Ross' expedition to the Antarctic in 1841–1844, during which Crozier had commanded Terror. Franklin was given command of Erebus Crozier was appointed his executive officer and was again made commander of Terror. Fitzjames was appointed second-in-command of Erebus. Franklin received command of the expedition on 7 February 1845, and his official instructions on 5 May 1845. [14]

Ships, provisions and personnel Edit

Erebus (378 tons bm) and Terror (331 tons bm) were sturdily built and well equipped, including several recent inventions. [15] Steam engines were fitted, driving a single screw propeller in each vessel these engines were converted former locomotives from the London & Croydon Railway. The ships could make 7.4 km/h (4 kn) on steam power, or travel under wind power to reach higher speeds and/or save fuel. [16]

Other advanced technology in the ships included reinforced bows constructed of heavy beams and iron plates, an internal steam heating system for the comfort of the crew in polar conditions, and a system of iron wells that allowed the screw propellers and iron rudders to be withdrawn into the hull to protect them from damage. The ships also carried libraries of more than 1,000 books and three years' supply of food, [17] which included tinned soup and vegetables, salt-cured meat, pemmican and several live cattle. [18] The tinned food was supplied from a provisioner, Stephen Goldner, who was awarded the contract on 1 April 1845, a mere seven weeks before Franklin set sail. [19] Goldner worked frantically on the large order of 8,000 tins. The haste required affected quality control of some of the tins, which were later found to have lead soldering that was "thick and sloppily done, and dripped like melted candle wax down the inside surface". [20]

Most of the crew were English, many from Northern England, with smaller numbers of Irish, Welsh and Scottish members. The only officers with prior experience of the Arctic were Franklin, Crozier, Erebus First Lieutenant Graham Gore, Terror assistant surgeon Alexander MacDonald, and the two ice-masters, James Reid (Erebus) and Thomas Blanky (Terror). [21]

Australian connections Edit

Franklin had been Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania, Australia) from 1837 to 1843. The crew included two members with close family connections to explorers of Australia who later died on expedition. Commander Henry Le Vesconte was the first cousin of William John Wills, the co-leader of the 1861 Burke and Wills expedition, the first to cross the Australian mainland from south to north both Burke and Wills perished on the return journey. [22] [23] William Gibson, a steward on Terror, was the elder brother of Alfred Gibson, who disappeared on an 1874 expedition led by Ernest Giles to cross the deserts of Western Australia from east to west, and was honoured in the naming of the Gibson Desert. [24] [25] Giles recorded the connection in his journal entry of 21 April 1873:

I remarked to Gibson as we rode along that this was the anniversary of Burke's and Wills's return to their depot at Coopers' Creek and then recited to him, as he did not appear to know anything whatever about it, the hardships they endured, their desperate struggles for existence and death there and casually remarked that Mr Wills had a brother [sic] who also lost his life in the field of discovery, as he went out with Sir John Franklin in 1845. Gibson then remarked, "Oh, I had a brother who died with Franklin at the North Pole and my father had a great deal of trouble getting his pay from Government". [26]

The expedition set sail from Greenhithe, Kent, on the morning of 19 May 1845, with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men. The ships stopped briefly in Stromness, Orkney Islands, in northern Scotland. From there they sailed to Greenland with HMS Rattler and a transport ship, Baretto Junior the passage to Greenland took 30 days. [27]

At the Whalefish Islands in Disko Bay, on the west coast of Greenland, 10 oxen carried on Baretto Junior were slaughtered for fresh meat which was transferred to Erebus and Terror. Crew members then wrote their last letters home, which recorded that Franklin had banned swearing and drunkenness. [28] Five men were discharged due to sickness and sent home on Rattler and Barretto Junior, reducing the final crew to 129 men. [29] [ failed verification ] In late July 1845 the whalers Prince of Wales (Captain Dannett) and Enterprise (Captain Robert Martin) encountered Terror and Erebus [30] in Baffin Bay, where they were waiting for good conditions to cross to Lancaster Sound. [31] The expedition was never heard of again.

Only limited information is available for subsequent events, pieced together over the next 150 years by other expeditions, explorers, scientists and interviews with Inuit people. The only first-hand information on expedition's progress is the two-part Victory Point Note (see below) found in the aftermath on King William Island. Franklin's men spent the winter of 1845–46 on Beechey Island, where three crew members died and were buried. After travelling down Peel Sound through the summer of 1846, Terror and Erebus became trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846 and are thought never to have sailed again: According to the second part of the Victory Point Note dated 25 April 1848 and signed by Fitzjames and Crozier, the crew had wintered off King William Island in 1846–47 and 1847–48 and Franklin had died on 11 June 1847. The remaining crew had abandoned the ships and planned to walk over the island and across the sea ice towards the Back River on the Canadian mainland, beginning on 26 April 1848. In addition to Franklin, eight further officers and 15 men had also died by this point. The Victory Point Note is the last known communication of the expedition. [32]

From archeological finds, it is believed that all of the remaining crew died on the subsequent 400 km long march [32] to Back River, most on the island. Thirty or 40 men reached the northern coast of the mainland before dying, still hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization. [33]

The Victory Point note Edit

The Victory Point Note was found 11 years later in May 1859 by William Hobson (Lieutenant on the McClintock Arctic expedition) [34] placed in a cairn on the northwestern coast of King William Island. It consists of two parts written on a pre-printed Admiralty form. The first part was written after the first overwintering in 1847, while the second part was added one year later. From the second part it can be inferred that the document was first deposited in a different cairn previously erected by James Clark Ross in 1830 during John Ross' Second Arctic expedition – at a location Ross named Victory Point. [35] The document is therefore referred to as Victory Point Note.

The first message is written within the body of the form and dates from May 28, 1847.

H.M.S ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror' wintered in the Ice in lat. 70 05' N., long. 98 23' W. Having wintered in 1846–7 at Beechey Island [a] , in lat. 74 43' 28" N., long. 91 39' 15" W., after having ascended Wellington Channel to lat. 77°, and returned by the west side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well.

Party consisting of 2 officers and 6 men left the ships on Monday 24th May, 1847.

(Signed) GM. GORE, Lieut.

(Signed) CHAS. F. DES VOEUX, Mate.

The second and final part is written largely on the margins of the form due to lack of remaining space on the document. It was presumably written on April 25, 1848.

[25th April 1]848 H.M. ships 'Terror' and 'Erebus' were deserted on the 22nd April, 5 leagues N.N.W. of this, [hav]ing been beset since 12th September, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command [of Cap]tain F.R.M. Crozier, landed here in lat. 69˚ 37' 42" N., long. 98˚ 41' W. [This p]aper was found by Lt. Irving under the cairn supposed to have

been built by Sir James Ross in 1831–4 miles to the Northward – where it had been deposited by the late Commander Gore in May June 1847. Sir James Ross’ pillar has not however been found and the paper has been transferred to this position which is that in which Sir J. Ross’ pillar was erected – Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847 and the total loss

by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. (Signed) JAMES FITZJAMES, Captain H.M.S. Erebus.

(Signed) F.R.M. CROZIER, Captain & Senior Offr.

and start on tomorrow, 26th, for Back's Fish River. [29]

In 1859, Hobson found a second document using the same Admiralty form containing an almost identical duplicate of the first message from 1847 in a cairn a few miles southwest at Gore Point. This document did not contain the second message. From the handwriting it is assumed that all messages were written by Commander James Fitzjames. As he did not take part in the landing party which deposited the notes originally in 1847, it is inferred that both documents were originally filled out by Fitzjames on board the ships with Gore and Des Voeux adding their signatures as members of the landing party. This is further supported by the fact that both documents contain the same factual errors – namely the wrong date of the wintering on Beechey Island. In 1848, after the abandonment of the ships and subsequent recovery of the document from the Victory Point cairn, Fitzjames added the second message signed by him and Crozier and deposited the note in the cairn found by Hobson 11 years later. [29]

Early searches Edit

After two years had passed with no word from Franklin, public concern grew and Jane, Lady Franklin – as well as members of Parliament and British newspapers – urged the Admiralty to send a search party. Although the Admiralty said it did not feel any reason to be alarmed, [36] it responded by developing a three-pronged plan put into effect in the spring of 1848 that sent an overland rescue party, led by John Richardson and John Rae, down the Mackenzie River to the Canadian Arctic coast.

Two expeditions by sea were also launched, one led by James Clark Ross entering the Canadian Arctic archipelago through Lancaster Sound, and the other, commanded by Henry Kellett, entering from the Pacific side. [37] In addition, the Admiralty offered a reward of £20,000 (£2,022,900 as of 2021) "to any Party or Parties, of any country, who shall render assistance to the crews of the Discovery Ships under the command of Sir John Franklin". [38] After the three-pronged effort failed, British national concern and interest in the Arctic increased until "finding Franklin became nothing less than a crusade." [39] Ballads such as "Lady Franklin's Lament", commemorating Lady Franklin's search for her lost husband, became popular. [40] [41]

Many joined the search. In 1850, 11 British and two American ships cruised the Canadian Arctic, including Breadalbane and her sister ship HMS Phoenix. [42] Several converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the expedition were found, including remnants of a winter camp from 1845 to 1846 and the graves of John Torrington, [43] John Hartnell, and William Braine. No messages from the Franklin expedition were found at this site. [44] [45]

In the spring of 1851, passengers and crew aboard several ships observed a huge iceberg off Newfoundland which bore two vessels, one upright and one on its beam ends. [46] The ships were not examined closely. It was suggested at the time that the ships could have been Erebus and Terror, but it is now known that they were not it is likely that they were abandoned whaling ships. [47]

In 1852, Edward Belcher was given command of the government Arctic expedition in search of Franklin. This was unsuccessful Belcher's inability to render himself popular with his subordinates was peculiarly unfortunate in an Arctic voyage, and he was not wholly suited to command vessels among ice. Four of the five ships (HMS Resolute, Pioneer, Assistance and Intrepid) [48] were abandoned in pack ice, for which Belcher was court-martialed but acquitted.

One of those ships, HMS Resolute, was later recovered intact by an American whaler and returned to the United Kingdom. Timbers from the ship were later used to manufacture three desks, one of which, the Resolute desk, was presented by Queen Victoria to the U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes it has often been chosen by presidents for use in the Oval Office in the White House.

Overland searches Edit

In 1854, Rae, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), discovered further evidence of the expedition's fate. Rae met an Inuk near Pelly Bay (now Kugaaruk, Nunavut) on 21 April 1854, who told him of a party of 35 to 40 white men who had died of starvation near the mouth of the Back River. Other Inuit confirmed this story, which included reports of cannibalism among the dying sailors. The Inuit showed Rae many objects that were identified as having belonged to Franklin and his men.

In particular, Rae brought from the Inuit several silver forks and spoons later identified as belonging to Franklin, Fitzjames, Crozier, Fairholme and Robert Orme Sargent, a shipmate aboard Erebus. Rae's report was sent to the Admiralty, which in October 1854 urged the HBC to send an expedition down the Back River to search for other signs of Franklin and his men. [49] [50]

Next were Chief Factor James Anderson and HBC employee James Stewart, who travelled north by canoe to the mouth of the Back River. In July 1855, a band of Inuit told them of a group of qallunaat (Inuktitut for "whites") who had starved to death along the coast. [49] In August, Anderson and Stewart found a piece of wood inscribed with "Erebus" and another that said "Mr. Stanley" (surgeon aboard Erebus) on Montreal Island in Chantrey Inlet, where the Back River meets the sea. [49]

Despite the findings of Rae and Anderson, the Admiralty did not plan another search of its own. Britain officially labelled the crew deceased in service on 31 March 1854. [51] Lady Franklin, failing to convince the government to fund another search, personally commissioned one more expedition under Francis Leopold McClintock. The expedition ship, the steam schooner Fox, bought via public subscription, sailed from Aberdeen on 2 July 1857.

In April 1859, sled parties set out from Fox to search on King William Island. On 5 May, the party led by Lieutenant William Hobson found a document in a cairn left by Crozier and Fitzjames. [52] It contained two messages. The first, dated 28 May 1847, said that Erebus and Terror had wintered in the ice off the northwest coast of King William Island and had wintered earlier at Beechey Island after circumnavigating Cornwallis Island. "Sir John Franklin commanding the Expedition. All well," the message said. [53] The second message, written in the margins of that same sheet of paper, was much more ominous. Dated 25 April 1848, it reported that Erebus and Terror had been trapped in the ice for a year and a half and that the crew had abandoned the ships on 22 April. Twenty-four officers and crew had died, including Franklin on 11 June 1847, just two weeks after the date of the first note. Crozier was commanding the expedition, and the 105 survivors planned to start out the next day, heading south towards the Back River. [54] This note contains significant errors most notably, the date of the expedition's winter camp at Beechey Island is incorrectly given as 1846–47 rather than 1845–46. [55]

The McClintock expedition also found a human skeleton on the southern coast of King William Island. Still clothed, it was searched, and some papers were found, including a seaman's certificate for Chief Petty Officer Henry Peglar (b. 1808), Captain of the Foretop, HMS Terror. However, since the uniform was that of a ship's steward, it is more likely that the body was that of Thomas Armitage, gun-room steward on Terror and a shipmate of Peglar, whose papers he carried. [56]

At another site on the western extreme of the island, Hobson discovered a lifeboat containing two skeletons and relics from the Franklin expedition. In the boat was a large amount of abandoned equipment, including boots, silk handkerchiefs, scented soap, sponges, slippers, hair combs, and many books, among them a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. McClintock also took testimony from the Inuit about the expedition's disastrous end. [57]

Two expeditions between 1860 and 1869 by Charles Francis Hall, who lived among the Inuit near Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island and later at Repulse Bay on the Canadian mainland, found camps, graves, and relics on the southern coast of King William Island, but he believed none of the Franklin expedition survivors would be found among the Inuit. In 1869, local Inuit took Hall to a shallow grave on King Edward Island containing well-preserved skeletal remains and fragments of clothing. [58] These remains were taken to England and interred beneath the Franklin Memorial at Greenwich Old Royal Naval College, London.

The eminent biologist Thomas Henry Huxley examined the remains and it was concluded that they belonged to HTD Le Vesconte, second lieutenant on Erebus. [59] An examination in 2009 suggested that these were actually the remains of Harry Goodsir, assistant surgeon on Erebus. [60] Although Hall concluded that all of the Franklin crew were dead, he believed that the official expedition records would yet be found under a stone cairn. [61] With the assistance of his guides Ipirvik and Taqulittuq, Hall gathered hundreds of pages of Inuit testimony.

Among these materials are accounts of visits to Franklin's ships, and an encounter with a party of white men on the southern coast of King William Island near Washington Bay. In the 1990s, this testimony was extensively researched by David C. Woodman, and was the basis of two books, Unravelling the Franklin Mystery (1992) and Strangers Among Us (1995), in which he reconstructs the final months of the expedition. Woodman's narrative challenged existing theories that the expedition's survivors all perished over the remainder of 1848 as they marched south from Victory Point, arguing instead that Inuit accounts point strongly to most of the 105 survivors cited by Crozier in his final note actually surviving past 1848, re-manning at least one of the ships and managing to sail it down along the coast of King William Island before it sank, with some crew members surviving as late as 1851. [62]

The hope of finding other additional expedition records led Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka of the U.S. Army to organise an expedition to the island between 1878 and 1880. Traveling to Hudson Bay on the schooner Eothen, Schwatka, assembling a team that included Inuit who had assisted Hall, continued north by foot and dog sled, interviewing Inuit, visiting known or likely sites of Franklin expedition remains, and wintering on King William Island. Although Schwatka failed to find the hoped-for papers, in a speech at a dinner given in his honour by the American Geographical Society in 1880, he said that his expedition had made "the longest sledge journey ever made both in regard to time and distance" [63] of 11 months and four days and 4,360 kilometres (2,710 mi), that it was the first Arctic expedition on which the whites relied entirely on the same diet as the Inuit, and that it established the loss of the Franklin records "beyond all reasonable doubt". [63] However, Schwatka was successful in locating the remains of one of Franklin's men, identified by personal effects as John Irving, third lieutenant aboard Terror. Schwatka had Irving's remains returned to Scotland, where they were buried with full honours at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh on 7 January 1881. [64]

The Schwatka expedition found no remnants of the Franklin expedition south of a place now known as Starvation Cove on the Adelaide Peninsula. This was about 40 miles (60 km) north of Crozier's stated goal, the Back River, and several hundred miles away from the nearest Western outpost, on the Great Slave Lake. Woodman wrote of Inuit reports that between 1852 and 1858 Crozier and one other expedition member were seen in the Baker Lake area, about 400 kilometres (250 mi) to the south, where in 1948 Farley Mowat found "a very ancient cairn, not of normal Eskimo construction" inside which were shreds of a hardwood box with dovetail joints. [65] [66]

Contemporary search expeditions Edit

  • East: James Clark Ross, (HMS Enterprise, HMS Investigator) only to Somerset Island because of ice.
  • Center: Rae–Richardson Arctic expedition Mackenzie River and along the coast.
  • West: HMS Plover, HMS Herald to Bering Strait William Pullen reaches Mackenzie by whaleboat.
  • West: Richard Collinson (HMS Enterprise), Robert McClure (HMS Investigator) to Bering Strait. McClure frozen in at Banks Island and Investigator abandoned after two winters, crew trek east to Belcher expedition ships, becoming first Europeans to cross the northwest passage. Collinson reaches Coronation Gulf, furthest east of any ship.
  • East: Horatio Austin (HMS Resolute), Erasmus Ommanney (HMS Assistance), plus 2 steam tenders, Pioneer and Intrepid (cpt John Bertie Cator 1850). Ommanney finds Franklin's Beechey Island camp. Austin's four and the below ships gather around Beechey Island, are frozen in and in spring send out sledge expeditions in all directions. They leave the Arctic before winter in 1851.
  • East: Charles Forsyth (Prince Albert) financed by Lady Franklin sledge on Somerset Island to Fury Beach.
  • East: William Penny (Lady Franklin and Sophia)
  • East: John Ross (schooner Felix)
  • East: Edwin De Haven (USS Rescue, USS Advance) mounted the First Grinnell expedition.
    in northern Baffin Bay. in five ships: HMS Assistance (Belcher), HMS Resolute (Henry Kellett), Pioneer (Sherard Osborn), Intrepid (Francis Leopold McClintock) and depot ship HMS North Star (William Pullen) much sledge exploration rescues crew of HMS Investigator all frozen in and abandoned except for North Star. Joined by supply ships Breadalbane, which would be crushed by ice, and HMS Phoenix, which with North Star took off crews of the other ships, including that of McClure's HMS Investigator, in 1854. led the Second Grinnell expedition.
  • Boat expedition up the Wellington Channel under the command of R. M'Cormick, R.N., in HMB Forlorn Hope.
  • Francis McClintock finds relics at King William Island, including the sole surviving written records of the Franklin expedition (the Victory Point and Gore Point records), and a ship's boat on runners containing two corpses.

King William Island excavations (1981–82) Edit

In June 1981, Owen Beattie, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, began the 1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project (FEFAP) when he and his team of researchers and field assistants travelled from Edmonton to King William Island, traversing the island's western coast as Franklin's men did 132 years before. FEFAP hoped to find artefacts and skeletal remains in order to use modern forensics to establish identities and causes of death among the lost 129. [67]

Although the trek found archaeological artefacts related to 19th-century Europeans and undisturbed disarticulated human remains, Beattie was disappointed that more remains were not found. [68] Examining the bones of Franklin crewmen, he noted areas of pitting and scaling often found in cases of Vitamin C deficiency, the cause of scurvy. [69] After returning to Edmonton, he compared notes from the survey with James Savelle, an Arctic archaeologist, and noticed skeletal patterns suggesting cannibalism. [70] Seeking information about the Franklin crew's health and diet, he sent bone samples to the Alberta Soil and Feed Testing Laboratory for trace element analysis and assembled another team to visit King William Island. The analysis would find an unexpected level of 226 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the crewman's bones, which was 10 times higher than the control samples, taken from Inuit skeletons from the same geographic area, of 26–36 ppm. [71]

In June 1982, a team made up of Beattie and three students (Walt Kowall, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Alberta Arne Carlson, an archaeology and geography student from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and Arsien Tungilik, an Inuk student and field assistant) was flown to the west coast of King William Island where they retraced some of the steps of McClintock in 1859 and Schwatka in 1878–79. [72] Discoveries during this expedition included the remains of between six and fourteen men in the vicinity of McClintock's "boat place" and artefacts including a complete boot sole fitted with makeshift cleats for better traction. [73]

Beechey Island excavations and exhumations (1984–86) Edit

After returning to Edmonton in 1982 and learning of the lead level findings from the 1981 expedition, Beattie struggled to find a cause. Possibilities included the lead solder used to seal the expedition's food tins, other food containers lined with lead foil, food colouring, tobacco products, pewter tableware, and lead-wicked candles. He came to suspect that the problems of lead poisoning compounded by the effects of scurvy could have been lethal for the Franklin crew. However, because skeletal lead might reflect lifetime exposure rather than exposure limited to the voyage, Beattie's theory could be tested only by forensic examination of preserved soft tissue as opposed to bone. Beattie decided to examine the graves of the buried crewmen on Beechey Island. [74]

After obtaining legal permission, [75] Beattie's team visited Beechey Island in August 1984 to perform autopsies on the three crewmen buried there. [76] They started with the first crew member to die, Leading Stoker John Torrington. [77] After completing Torrington's autopsy and exhuming and briefly examining the body of John Hartnell, the team, pressed for time and threatened by the weather, returned to Edmonton with tissue and bone samples. [78] Trace element analysis of Torrington's bones and hair indicated that the crewman "would have suffered severe mental and physical problems caused by lead poisoning". [79] Although the autopsy indicated that pneumonia had been the ultimate cause of the crewman's death, lead poisoning was cited as a contributing factor. [80]

During the expedition, the team visited a place about 1 km (0.6 mi) north of the grave site to examine fragments of hundreds of food tins discarded by Franklin's men. Beattie noted that the seams were poorly soldered with lead, which had likely come in direct contact with the food. [81] [82] The release of findings from the 1984 expedition and the photo of Torrington, a 138-year-old corpse well preserved by permafrost in the tundra, led to wide media coverage and renewed interest in the Franklin expedition.

Subsequent research has suggested that another potential source for the lead may have been the ships' distilled water systems rather than the tinned food. K. T. H. Farrer argued that "it is impossible to see how one could ingest from the canned food the amount of lead, 3.3 mg per day over eight months, required to raise the PbB to the level 80 μg/dL at which symptoms of lead poisoning begin to appear in adults and the suggestion that bone lead in adults could be 'swamped' by lead ingested from food over a period of a few months, or even three years, seems scarcely tenable." [83] In addition, tinned food was in widespread use within the Royal Navy at that time and its use did not lead to any significant increase in lead poisoning elsewhere.

However, and uniquely for this expedition only, the ships were fitted with converted railway locomotive engines for auxiliary propulsion which required an estimated one tonne of fresh water per hour when steaming. It is highly probable that it was for this reason that the ships were fitted with a unique desalination system which, given the materials in use at the time, would have produced large quantities of water with a very high lead content. William Battersby has argued that this is a much more likely source for the high levels of lead observed in the remains of expedition members than the tinned food. [4]

A further survey of the graves was undertaken in 1986. A camera crew filmed the procedure, shown in Nova's television documentary "Buried in Ice" in 1988. [84] Under difficult field conditions, Derek Notman, a radiologist and medical doctor from the University of Minnesota, and radiology technician Larry Anderson took many X-rays of the crewmen prior to autopsy. Barbara Schweger, an Arctic clothing specialist, and Roger Amy, a pathologist, assisted in the investigation. [85]

Beattie and his team had noticed that someone else had attempted to exhume Hartnell. In the effort, a pickaxe had damaged the wooden lid of his coffin, and the coffin plaque was missing. [86] Research in Edmonton later showed that Sir Edward Belcher, commander of one of the Franklin rescue expeditions, had ordered the exhumation of Hartnell in October 1852, but was thwarted by the permafrost. A month later, Edward A. Inglefield, commander of another rescue expedition, succeeded with the exhumation and removed the coffin's plaque. [87]

Unlike Hartnell's grave, the grave of Private William Braine was largely intact. [88] When he was exhumed, the survey team saw signs that his burial had been hasty. His arms, body, and head had not been positioned carefully in the coffin, and one of his undershirts had been put on backwards. [89] The coffin seemed too small for him its lid had pressed down on his nose. A large copper plaque with his name and other personal data punched into it adorned his coffin lid. [90]

The four graves at Franklin Camp near the harbour on Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Archaeologists uncover mystery coffin at king’s grave site, shocked by what’s inside

LEICESTER, England (CNN) – When you think about a medieval English king’s burial site, you probably wouldn’t think about it being uncovered in a parking lot.

However, archaeologists discovered a mysterious coffin from medieval times under a parking lot in England.

The coffin was discovered near the final resting place of a king, in what was originally Grey Friars Friary.

Archaeologists theorized it contained the remains of an prominent man, possibly a knight or a Catholic Church official.

When the coffin was opened, they realized the remains were from a woman.

Whoever she was, the woman found in a double coffin — a lead coffin encased in a larger stone coffin — near the final resting place of King Richard III was probably a very noteworthy person.

At least that’s the theory of Mathew Morris, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester.

“A grave like this — very elaborate stone sarcophagus, lead inner casket buried in a very prominent position in the church, close to the high altar — you’ve got to think this person was important,” said Morris, who led the excavation.

Final resting place

Over the centuries, the whereabouts of the friary’s remnants were forgotten, but it remained in the records as the burial place of Richard III.

In 2012, experts began digging away at the area and established that it was part of the friary and that a skeleton, hastily buried in an uneven grave, was that of Richard, who was killed in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field.

In 2013, Morris and his fellow archaeologists discovered the mysterious coffin within a coffin. On Sunday they announced their findings: the skeleton inside was from an elderly woman, who may have been a church benefactor and who probably died sometime in the 14th century.

Not what they expected

The fact that she was a woman may be the most surprising discovery. Scholars were certain that the coffin’s inhabitant had to be one of three men: a medieval knight named Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, or two leaders of the English Grey Friars order, Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham.

But they are most certain that this woman was important. The known details surrounding her burial — inner lead coffin inlaid with a crucifix, placement of the coffin in a prominent location — all point to someone who was esteemed and held in high regard.

Scientists can see this even in the foods she ate. An analysis of the woman’s remains revealed she had a diverse, protein-rich diet with large amounts of sea fish. Such a diet suggests that she was a wealthy person and would have been able to consume expensive foods like game, meat and fish, according to a press release from the University of Leicester.

‘Forever remain anonymous’

Unfortunately, that’s about all Morris and his team have been able to find out about her. Documents and records in Leicester from around the time of her burial suggest she could be someone named Emma, who was married to John of Holt. But there’s not enough information available to make even a cursory connection.

“We know little about (Emma) and a lack of fundamental information, such as her age at death, what she did for a living, what she looked like or where in the church she was buried, coupled with no known descendants who can provide a DNA sample, make it impossible to say for certain (if the skeleton) is that of Emma,” Morris said.

He lamented that the skeleton will probably “forever remain anonymous.”

Fit for a king

The skeleton wasn’t the only female found at the site. According to the university, it was one of 10 graves discovered in the grounds of the former church, including that of Richard III, six of which were left undisturbed. The others that were examined were all found to have female remains.

And the obvious care put into the burials of the others found at the site says something about Richard III’s burial.

“What stands out more is the contrast between the care and attention taken with these burials — large, neatly dug graves with coffins — and the crudeness of Richard III’s grave,” Morris said. “The more we examine it, the clearer it becomes how atypical Richard III’s burial really was.”

When Richard’s grave was discovered, he was found in a grave that was simply too small for his body. His torso was left in an “odd position” that left his head partially propped up against the grave side. In an academic paper published a few months after the discovery, British archaeologists described the slain king as having been buried “with minimal reverence.”

A burial more fitting for a king is in the offing, however. Richard III will be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral later this month, after his remains are released by the University of Leicester.

Diary of the War: September 1918

This month’s wreck commemorated in the War Diary for September 1918 is one of our occasional features which was not a war loss as such (i.e. not lost to enemy action), though she was lost on war patrol and is an example of a vessel specifically built for the war in large numbers.

She was ML 247, one of three very large orders totalling 580 motor launches, placed by the Admiralty with the motor yacht specialist Elco of New Jersey, USA, small and fast, intended for anti-submarine duties.

Motor launches engaging a submarine, commissioned for the Imperial War Museum. Geoffrey Stephen Allfree, RNVR, © IWM (Art.IWM ART 148)

On 29 September 1918 four motor launches entered St. Ives Bay for shelter during a gale, which then veered to the NNE, increasing to hurricane force. This turned the rocky north Cornwall coast into a lee shore towards which the 86ft long wooden craft were in danger of drifting in high seas. One in particular, ML 247, got into difficulties as she developed problems with her engine.

To us today it seems extraordinary that these small wooden craft were equipped for warlike purposes with a 3pdr gun, depth charges – and a petrol engine. (They were no more extraordinary, however, than the contemporary aircraft which flew into battle with fabric coverings over wooden frames.) It was the petrol engine developing 19 knots that gave the motor launches their advantage over the U-boat, the fastest of which could only proceed at 17 knots on the surface and were far less speedy when submerged.

Hoisting a motor launch, by Geoffrey Stephen Allfree, to a commission by the Imperial War Museum © IWM (Art.IWM ART 791)

By the time the St. Ives lifeboat reached Clodgy Point, the vessel had struck the rocks and with her petrol engine and depth charges, had blown up on impact with the loss of all but one of her 11 crew. Nevertheless one man was washed up and rescued on the shore by Sgt Henry Escott, who was awarded the RNLI Silver Medal for his rescue, while the lifeboat crew were also rewarded for their gallant if unsuccessful attempt to save life in the teeth of the NNE gale. Two of the lifeboat crew subsequently donated their awards to the Cornwall Branch of the Red Cross. (1)

Among the dead was her commanding officer Geoffrey Stephen Allfree, who had commanded ML 286 (which survives to this day in Isleworth, and whose story is told here by Antony Firth of Fjordr Ltd.) A professional artist, he had also served at Gallipoli, and many evocative sketches and paintings by him survive – indeed, I used his paintings to illustrate the War Diary blog of March 1918 on the theme of dazzle camouflage.

Torpedoed Tramp Steamer off the Longships, 1918, by Geoffrey Stephen Allfree. © IWM. (Art.IWM ART 2237)

He also painted this view depicting a torpedoed steamer ‘off the Longships’, showing a vessel whose dazzle camouflage had apparently done little to protect her. As far as I know, the vessel in the painting has never been identified, probably because of the title. However, the view does not depict the Longships, a group of rocks off Land’s End. The view is instead of Cornwall’s rocky coast opposite the Longships, looking north, suggesting that the vessel was perhaps beached after being torpedoed off the Longships.

The only vessel fulfilling these criteria in 1918 is the SS Beaumaris, which was torpedoed on 7 February 1918 and which was steered for Whitesand Bay, not far from the Longships, in a sinking state, finally being run ashore by the master and wireless operator after everyone else had managed to escape. There is some artistic licence for the purposes of the composition, particularly the distinctive dark rock in the background, but there is no other vessel that matches these criteria. Despite the camouflage, she fits the typical profile of a collier or tramp steamer, which we know was the case with the Beaumaris, operated by the coal shipping firm of Furness, Withy and Co., and carrying coal at the time of loss.

We can therefore be reasonably certain that this is the Beaumaris, with a viewpoint approximating to Sennen Cove lifeboat station. She was largely demolished in situ, but the occasional trace remains even today.

The crew in the ship’s port lifeboat were picked up by a patrol vessel and it is tempting to wonder if Allfree had been involved in their rescue, or whether he had simply seen the vessel while on patrol and come back to have another look. We can imagine that a breezy and chilly spring walk and the resultant painting were pleasant diversions from war patrol.

The Swallow

It gives me great pleasure this week to welcome our guest blogger Philip Ashford of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, with his blog considering the documentary evidence for a wreck of the early 1640s at Minehead.

The period leading up to the English Civil War was one of high political and religious tension at home and abroad. Given this, the reporting of wrecks was very low priority, despite the fact that trade continued and, besides naval movements, troops were moved by ship. Wrecks from the 1640s are therefore under-represented in the record.

Aerial image of the equally mysterious scheduled wreck at Minehead, visible just off centre right of the image. This wreck is believed to date to the early 19th century. © Philip Ashford

Philip’s blog uncovers part of a much bigger story from that period, a tale of refugees who suffered shipwreck. He writes:

Mysteries regularly become more intriguing and opaque after a little investigation. Inevitably, the more that is known, the more questions arise, perhaps never to be fully or completely answered.

Such a mystery surrounds the fate of the Swallow as it arrived at Minehead Quay: even its date is somewhat unclear. In October 1641 an Irish rebellion by Catholics against Protestant settlement began, and as it intensified Protestants and their goods were evacuated from Munster to England or Wales by ship. The trail of the Swallow begins with the depositions in late 1642 of surviving Protestants referring to events at some point in late 1641 or early 1642.

Robert Fennell, a merchant of Cork shipping butter, beef, Irish wool and ‘Irish Freize’, a form of coarse woollen cloth, from Cork to Minehead during the latter 1630s and in January 1642 in various Irish and Minehead vessels, [1] claimed to have lost personal items in the Swallow.

Fennell stated on 5 August 1642 that he had stowed his ‘shop goods’ on the Swallow which was ‘droven a ground att the kay of Mynhead and ther sunken, being overflowen with watter, ‘droven’ implying that a storm was responsible for the wreck. Fennell thus suffered a further £200 loss of goods beyond those he had already lost through the rebellion from his farm and corn in the ground at John’s Town, Cork ‘on or about Candlemas last past’ (2 February), suggesting the shipment of his goods after that date. [2]

Also on board the same ship were goods and books belonging to the archdeacon of Ross, Thomas Frith, books that had been left him by his late brother, a Cork gentleman. Frith stated that the Swallow ‘had overset by the key of Mynhead’ and his books and goods were underwater for two days and therefore lost. [3]

It is also probable that books belonging to William Chappell, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, were stowed in the Swallow. Chappell had escaped the uprising by taking a passage from Dublin to Milford Haven in December 1641. Eventually he arrived in Bristol in March 1642 to be greeted with the news that a ship sailing from Cork to Minehead with his effects and precious books aboard had been ‘lost near Minehead’ [4] in an incident with striking similarities to the Swallow.

Ships can only enter Minehead harbour at high tide. It appears that the Swallow might have been approaching Minehead but was unable to delay its arrival, because of strong winds, until the correct state of the tide, the anchors clearly not holding as it was driven towards the shore.

A first mystery is whether the Swallow was wrecked and broken up or whether it grounded and ‘overset’, but was then salvaged once both saveable and ruined goods had been offloaded. There is an indication in Frith’s testimony that his goods were removed after two days. Given that both Fennell’s and Frith’s depositions state that the incident took place at or near Minehead Quay, it is certain that at low tide the vessel would have been lying on pebbles or sand which stretch for hundreds of metres to the north of the quay, so it would have been possible to remove goods from the stricken vessel and, using blocks and tackle, right the ship. However, no documentary reference to either eventuality, wreck or salvage, has been found. All that we can say for certain is that the vessel certainly underwent some sort of damaging event.

A second mystery is the identity of the Swallow. As so often at this time, there was more than one vessel of that name and a similar mystery concerns the identity of a vessel known as the Swan, implicated in the wreck of 1653 at Duart Point. [5] Fennell stated in his deposition that the ‘Swallowe’ was ‘my Lord Waricks’ vessel. Robert Rich (1587-1658), second Earl of Warwick. was commander of the Parliamentary fleet from May 1642. This Swallow of 160 tons, 150 men and 34 guns, [6] appears in a number of historical documents. Parliament voted in November 1641 that it should be one of the armed vessels that accompanied troopships to Munster [7] but it is not clear when it arrived on station. On 17 December 1641 Sir William St Leger wrote to the first Earl of Cork relating to his idea of loaning money for the ‘setting forth’ of the Swallow, so it appears it had not arrived in Munster by then. [8] It is likely that the first escort duty was, however, in February 1641/42, [9] and it was off the Irish coast in March 1642. [10] For certain, the Swallow remained on station off the Irish coast during the summer of 1642. [11] The vessel saw further action in the Bristol Channel area including taking part in an assault on Tenby in 1644, [12] and also seems to have been off Kinsale and the southern coast of Ireland again in 1648. [13] It is known that ships of the Royal Navy did organise the rescue of people and goods to the Somerset coast during this time of difficulty. For example, on 3 April 1642, under the warrant of Captain Kettleby, 145 people were disembarked at Minehead from Kinsale in the Curteen of London, John White master. [14] Kettleby was none other than the Captain of the Swallow.

So, was Fennell correct? Was it the Swallow of the Parliamentary Navy which foundered off Minehead? If so, there is no record of the affair found so far. If the incident did relate to this Swallow, it was clearly salvaged and back in operation in a very short time. It is certainly the view of Elaine Murphy, who has researched and published significant work on the Navy at this time that the Swallow involved was not one of the ships of the Parliamentary Navy. [16]

A number of overseas customer and controller port books remain for Minehead for the 1630s and 1641-2. It is clear from these, that neither Minehead nor ports in Ireland such as Cork or Youghal owned a ship named Swallow trading with Minehead at the time. In fact, no Swallow appears in any of those port books as having entered or left Minehead with customable goods except one entry. On 15 February 1641/2 the Swallow of London, 80 tons, Henry Forms master, entered Minehead from Cork. February, of course is a winter month with increased possibility of stormy winds that might have driven the vessel ashore. Various entries in the port book show that it was carrying Irish wool, tallow and Irish frieze owned by various merchants but, significantly, the first mention of the vessel indicates that Robert Fennell had tallow and hides aboard. [17] Over the next four days the various goods belonging to other merchants were entered into the customs accounts. This eventuality was not unusual, but the particular length of the Swallow entries might indicate a speedy but difficult job of offloading, possibly at low tide across a beach from a damaged vessel on its side. For comparison, the 50-ton Abraham of Youghal which entered Minehead on the same day was still being unloaded well into March. Robert Fennell’s tallow and hides could have survived salt water submergence, but, as his original deposition indicates, other ‘shop goods’ he had on board, as well as the non-customable books belonging to Frith and Chappell were lost through water damage. The Swallow did not take on customable goods at Minehead to return to Ireland or sail to France as most vessels , and there is no coastal port book for Minehead for that year so the trail has gone cold. So the question remains, is the Swallow of London the likely candidate?

Other Swallows sailing in the Bristol Channel appear in various records in subsequent years. The Swallow of Youghal, a post-barque en route from Youghal to Bristol, was taken as a prize by the Spy frigate in June 1644, also the Swallow of Flushing was taken as a prize into Dungarvon in southern Ireland in 1649. [18] In the early 1650s there was a Swallow of Ilfracombe and a Swallow of Bristol. Both had dealings with Ireland. [19] If either of these Swallows is the candidate, then, as with the Swallow of the Parliamentary Navy, they operated after the event near the quay of Minehead, indicating the vessel was re-floated. However there is no real corroborating evidence to put any of these vessels ‘in the frame’.

Now there are several more than two Swallows, has summer arrived? Is it possible to properly conclude this mystery with a definitive statement? The best answer perhaps is as with unsolved police investigations, ‘the file is still open’. Hopefully, advances in research, if and when further evidence comes to light, will help bring the matter to a conclusion. However, given the fact that Robert Fennell had goods on the Swallow of Cork arriving in Minehead in February 1642 New Style, at the right time and the right place, this vessel seems to be the prime suspect. Perhaps the dislocation and stress of the rebellion caused Fennell to confuse his Swallows, as no doubt he would have been aware of the operation of the navy’s candidate in and around Cork and that his goods were to be embarked on the Swallow. Notwithstanding the identity, was the event an accident that was righted or a wreck that was broken up?

Many thanks to Philip for his researches on this one wreck event – which has improved our knowledge of wrecks for England as a whole in 1641-2 by 20% – which underlines how little we know about wrecks for the period unless they are involved with the political strife of the time.

Aerial view of the present-day Minehead harbour. The Swallow was wrecked at the 17th century quay. © Philip Ashford

[1] Fennell shipped butter and beef in December 1635, Irish wool in December 1636 and ‘Irish Freize’, in January 1642 from Cork to Minehead. TNA, E190/1088/12, 1088/15, 1089/9. Prior to the adoption of the modern Gregorian ‘New Style’ Calendar in 1752 in England and Ireland, the Julian Calendar continued in use, with the calendar and legal year running from 25 th March to 24 th March annually. Thus, in contemporary sources, 1 January 1641 Old Style was the day after 31 December 1641, i.e. 1 January 1642 New Style, not the first day of 1641.

[2] Robart Ffennell’s depositon. 1641 depositions, Trinity College Dublin found at MS 824 234r.

[3] Thomas Fryth’s deposition. 1641 depositions, Trinity College Dublin found at MS 825 124r. Frith does not name the vessel in his deposition of November 1642, so it is my reasonable assumption, given that the location, origin of the voyage and refugee context are clearly the same, that his testimony refers to the same event that Fennell mentions.

[4] A Kippis, Biographia Britannica 2, (London, 1748), 1284-5.

[5] C Martin, A Cromwellian Warship wrecked off Duart Castle, Mull, Scotland, in 1653 (Edinburgh, 2017)

[6] E. Peacock (ed.), The army list of Roundheads and Cavaliers: 1642 (London, 1874), 63, under the subtitle ‘His Majesties ships for the Irish seas’.

[7] M Lea-O’Mahoney, The Navy in the English civil war (University of Exeter D.Phil thesis, 2011), 33.

[8] A. Grossart (ed.), The Lismore papers: The private and public correspondence of Sir Richard Boyle, first and great Earl of Cork 4 (London, 1888), 229-30.

[10] E. Murphy, Ireland and the war at sea 1641-1653 (London, 2012), 19-20.

[12] Murphy, Ireland, 32, 38 Lea-O’Mahoney, Navy, 94, 96.

[13] C. McNeill, The Tanner letters: Original documents and notices of Irish affairs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Dublin, 1943), 302.

[14] W. Coates, et al, The private journals of the long parliament (1992), 406. There is no mention of the Curteen in Minehead’s overseas customs book of December 1641-December 1642 (TNA, E190/1089/9).

[16] Elaine Murphy, personal correspondence, December 2017.

[18] Murphy, Ireland, 139, 182 and 194.

[19] H. Nott, The deposition book of Bristol 1650-1654 (Bristol, 1948), 14, 105 and 161.

Cleopatra & Mark Antony’s Tomb

Her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased…

Plutarch, Life of Antony

Cleopatra VII Philopator (‘father-loving’) was born in January 69 BCE in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and possibly Cleopatra V Tryphaena. Cleopatra was to become the last monarch of the Ptolemaic Empire, ruling Egypt from 51 BCE to 30 BCE. In 48 BCE Cleopatra had become an ally and lover of Julius Caesar and remained so until his assassination in Rome in March of 44 BCE. While she was with Caesar, she bore him a son and he had a statue built of her and had it placed in a temple in the Roman Forum. The Senate was upset by their relationship, but Cleopatra gave them scientific knowledge – time. Taught them to use a solar cycle system (modern), rather than a lunar system.

The death of Caesar threw Rome into turmoil, with various factions competing for control, the most important of these being the armies of Mark Antony and Octavian, the former a supporter and loyal friend Caesar, the latter his adopted son.

Cleopatra was clever and talented – formed strong alliances. In 41 BC Cleopatra was summoned to Tarsus by Mark Antony. She is said to have entered the city by sailing up the Cydnus River in a decorated barge with purple sails, while dressed in the robes of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Antony, who equated himself with the god Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, was instantly won over. Much like the meeting between Cleopatra and Caesar, both sides saw something in the other which they needed. For Cleopatra it was another opportunity to achieve power both in Egypt and in Rome, for Anthony the support of Rome’s largest and wealthiest client states in his campaign against the might of the Parthians was highly desirable. At the meeting Cleopatra allegedly requested that her half-sister Arsinoë, living in protection at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, be executed to prevent any future attempts on her throne. Anthony and Cleopatra soon became allies and lovers and he returned with her to Alexandria in 40 BCE.

In Alexandria, Cleopatra and Antony formed a society of “inimitable livers”, which some historians have interpreted as an excuse to lead a life of debauchery, though it was more likely to have been a group dedicated to the cult of the mystical god Dionysus. Cleopatra bore Antony the twins Alexander Helios (the Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (the Moon).

The political situation in Rome compelled Antony to return to Italy where he was forced to conclude a temporary settlement with Octavian, part of which was that he married Octavian’s sister, Octavia. It was to be three years before he and Cleopatra were to meet again. One result of this meeting was that Cleopatra became pregnant with her third child by Antony (the future Ptolemy Philadelphus) another was that parts of Rome’s eastern possessions came under Cleopatra’s control.

In 34 BCE, despite the fact that Antony’s Parthian campaign had been an extravagant failure, Antony and Cleopatra celebrated a mock Roman Triumph in the streets of Alexandria. Crowds flocked to the Gymnasium to see the couple seated on golden thrones surrounded by their children, and Antony made a proclamation known today as the ‘Donations of Alexandria’. In this declaration Antony distributed lands held by Rome and Parthia amongst Cleopatra and their children, and proclaimed Caesarion as Caesar’s legitimate son.

Not surprisingly, the ‘Donations of Alexandria’ caused outrage in Rome, where the rumor began to spread that Antony intended to transfer the empire’s capital from Rome to Alexandria. In 32 BCE, Octavian had the Senate deprive Antony of his powers and declare war against Cleopatra, calling her a whore and a drunken Oriental. To avoid another civil war, Antony was not mentioned in the declaration, but this was to no avail and Antony decided to join the war on Cleopatra’s side.

The culmination of the war came at the naval Battle of Actium, which took place near the town of Preveza in northwestern Greece, on September 2, 31 BCE. Here Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s combined force of 230 vessels and 50,000 sailors were defeated by Octavian’s navy commanded by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, effectively handing control of the Roman world over to Octavian. In 30 BCE Octavian invaded Egypt and laid siege to Alexandria. Hopelessly outnumbered, Antony’s forces surrendered and, in the honorable Roman tradition, Antony committed suicide by falling on his sword.

After Antony’s death Cleopatra’s was taken to Octavian who informed her that she would be brought to Rome and paraded in the streets as part of his Triumph. Perhaps unable to bear the thought of this humiliation, on August 12, 30 BCE Cleopatra dressed in her royal robes and lay upon a golden couch with a diadem on her brow. According to tradition she had an asp (an Egyptian cobra), brought to her concealed in a basket of figs, and died from the bite. Two of her female servants also died with her. The asp was a symbol of divine royalty to the Egyptians, so by allowing the asp to bite her, Cleopatra became immortal. Other historians believe that Cleopatra used either a poisonous ointment or a vial of poison to commit suicide.
Mark Antony died by stabbing himself with a sword after wrongly believing Cleopatra was dead.

Cleopatra had lived thirty nine years, for twenty-two of which she had reigned as queen, and for fourteen she had been Antony’s partner in his empire. After her death her son Caesarion was declared pharaoh, but he was soon executed on Octavian’s orders. Her other children were sent to Rome to be raised by Antony’s wife, Octavia. Cleopatra represented the last significant threat to Roman authority and her death also marks the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. The vast treasures of Egypt were plundered by Octavian, and Egypt itself became a new Roman province. Within a few years the Senate named Octavian Augustus and he became the first Roman Emperor, consolidating the western and eastern halves of the Republic into a Roman Empire.

Octavian later published his biography in which he stripped Cleopatra of her political ability and portrayed her as an immoral foreigner, a temptress of upright Roman men. A number of Roman historians and writers reinforced the image of Cleopatra Empire an incestuous, adulterous whore who used sex to try and emasculate the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, such Roman propaganda has had a profound influence on the image of Cleopatra that has been passed down into Western culture. The real Cleopatra was highly skilled politically (though ruthless with her enemies), popular with her subjects, spoke seven languages, and was said to be the only Ptolemy to read and speak Egyptian. Barely any traces of Cleopatra or her reign exist today. Cleopatra often portrayed herself as a living Isis (a goddess) (As mourner, she was a principal deity in rites connected with the dead as magical healer, she cured the sick and brought the deceased to life and as mother, she was a role model for all women.)

It is also a sobering thought to remember how different the history of western civilization might have been if Cleopatra had managed to create an eastern empire to rival the increasing might of Rome, which she very nearly succeeded in doing.

Recent archaeological work has cast some interesting but controversial light on the possible location of Cleopatra’s tomb. Greco-Roman historian Plutarch wrote that that Antony and Cleopatra were buried together, and, in 2008 CE archaeologists from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and from the Dominican Republic, working at the Temple of Taposiris Magna, 28 miles west of Alexandria, reported that one of the chambers in the building probably contained the bodies of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The team have so far discovered 22 bronze coins inscribed with Cleopatra’s name and bearing her image, a bust of Cleopatra, and an alabaster mask believed to represent Mark Antony. Work at the site is ongoing, and only time will tell if the archaeologist are correct in their theory that the great couple were interred at such a distance from Alexandria.

The ancient historians Suetonius (lived A.D. 69 to 122) and Plutarch (lived A.D. 46 to 120) both claimed that Antony and Cleopatra were buried together inside a tomb. Plutarch wrote that Octavian gave orders that Cleopatra’s “body should be buried with that of Antony in splendid and regal fashion.”

While Suetonius wrote that Octavian “allowed them both the honor of burial, and in the same tomb, giving orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be finished.” This tomb has never been found.

Reports in 2008 and 2009 focused on an announcement by the noted Egyptologist Zahi Hawass that he might find the tomb in Taposiris Magna, a temple to Osiris, located west of Alexandria, Egypt, in excavations with Kathleen Martinez that have yielded ten mummies in 27 tombs of Egyptian nobles, as well as coins bearing images of Cleopatra and carvings showing the two in an embrace. So far, the tomb remains elusive, but the temple excavations continue, with additional sites below the surface identified using ground-penetrating radar in 2011.

The search seeks to find Antony’s mummy as well, despite Plutarch’s statement that Antony was cremated: “After Cleopatra had heard this, in the first place, she begged Caesar that she might be permitted to pour libations for Antony and when the request was granted, she had herself carried to the tomb, and embracing the urn which held his ashes.”

“The long-lost tomb of Antony and Cleopatra will be eventually uncovered. The burial site has been finally estimated to be in the region of Taposiris Magna, 30 kilometersaway from Alexandria,” Egyptian archaeologist ZahiHawass said in a statement during Palermo Conference.
“I hope to find the tomb of Antony and Cleopatra soon. I do believe that they are buried in the same tomb,” Hawass stated. “We are so close to discover the accurate location of the tomb we are on the right way. We know where exactly we have to dig,” Hawass stated to the Italian News Agency.

The sources for this episode include Live Science, Royal Central, Egypt Today, Ancient Encyclopedia, Britannica Encyclopedia, and Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb.

You can listen to this episode on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and all other pod catchers.

Watch the video: Hundebegegnungen ohne Bellen und Zerren. Hunde verstehen 8. Tierratgeber. WDR (August 2022).