Eastbourne divers to act as guardians of wreck

SOVEREIGN Divers are to act as guardians of a shipwreck in Normans Bay dating from around 1700.

The Eastbourne’s branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club has been asked by the Nautical Archaeological Society (NAS) to watch over the wreck which lies a few miles off the coast of Normans Bay.

It is thought to be HMS Resolution, a British warship which sank in the Great Storm of 1703, or one of seven Dutch warships that went down during the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. In either case, it is of historical importance and is designated as a protected wreck, meaning that no diving or fishing can take place within 100 metres of the site.

So far more than 42 cannons and a number of other artefacts including a large anchor have been found. Unfortunately, the ship’s bell and other items which would give a positive identification of the shipwreck have yet to be found.

Only divers who are licensed by the NAS and English Heritage may dive on the wreck and Sovereign Divers has been asked to keep a watchful eye on the site to make sure only authorised diving takes place.

The NAS has also started to survey the site in detail and aims to offer authorised divers a trail so they can find the main points of interest on the wreck such as the cannons and the remains of what is thought to be the ship’s galley.

Graham Smith, chairman of Sovereign Divers, said, “This is a fantastic collaboration between us and the NAS.

“The wreck is only three miles from our harbour and we aim to make regular trips to the site and to assist the NAS and English Heritage in monitoring and recording this historic wreck.”

Although the wreck has been on the sea-bed for more than 300 years, its shallow depth means it is particularly susceptible to erosion from waves and storms.

Graham said, “The wreck is still evolving and I’m sure many artefacts will be covered and uncovered each year. We aim to help the NAS with gathering photographic and video records of the site before much more damage occurs.

“It was extremely generous of the NAS to allow us to put all our members on the licence and allow us to dive it whenever we want. In return we will gather information and record the site while making sure only licensed divers access it.”

Graham says he is hoping the wreck is one of the Dutch warships and not HMS Resolution.

“If it is a Dutch warship, six more ships may be lying somewhere close to this one in the bay and have yet to be found,” he said.

“Who knows what we might find one day.”

Sovereign Divers meets every Tuesday evening at the Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club. For more information email graham@sovereigndivers.co.uk.