Skip to main contentSkip to contextural navigationSkip to main navigationIf you are having problems using this page with a screen reader follow this link for a more compatible version
University of Plymouth home page
home |  Help |  contact us |  sitemap |  search  University Logo
University news archive

Finding the rigging with no diving or digging!

11 April 2007

State-of-the-art surveying equipment will be used to search for three historic shipwrecks in Pymouth Sound - and experts won't even get their feet wet!

Thanks to the latest technology, the team of archaeologists and students from the University of Plymouth - together with a team from Bristol University - can carry out the survey beginning Tuesday 10 April without the need for any diving or excavation. The combined team of 11 will use equipment including a magnetometer, which helps locate large metal objects such as anchors, cannons and concentrations of iron shot. Side-scan sonar, which uses acoustic information to 'map' the surface of the seabed, will be employed to see if any parts of the wrecks are visible. The project will also look at the effect marine works, such as dredging, have had on the maritime archeology in the area.

Leader of the project, Martin Read, who lectures in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth, said: "Developers now have a duty to take into account archaeology (including shipwrecks) when planning marine developments, as they have on land for many years. It is important that developers realise the potential effect of their development on the historic environment."

The three wrecks are the English East Indiaman Palsgrave lost in 1637, a French prize Lavinia lost in 1603, and HMS Conqueror a Third Rate Royal Navy vessel lost in 1760.

Part of the survey will also look at the 16th century 'Cattewater wreck' which was discovered during dredging in the 1970s and was the first wreck to be protected in the United Kingdom. (Subsequently over 60 wrecks have been protected by the UK government, including the famous Mary Rose in Portsmouth). Since partial excavation in the 1970s the wreck has mostly been left undisturbed in the mud, opposite the entrance to Sutton Harbour in Plymouth.

"Modern techniques will allow us to visualise aspects of the site which were previously impossible without excavation. The information gained from the survey will be passed to English Heritage to help them in their management of this internationally important site," said Martin.

As well as the two universities involved, the project is being supported by Innomar Technologie, GSE Rentals Ltd. and 3H Consulting Ltd.

Notes to Editors

The Secretary of State has power under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 to designate wreck sites which he is satisfied ought to be protected from unauthorised interference on account of their archaeological, historical or artistic importance. Before making a designation order, the Secretary of State is required to consult with appropriate persons (unless he is satisfied that the order should be made as a matter of immediate urgency). Once designated, it is a criminal offence for a person to dive on or interfere with the site except under the authority of a licence.

English Heritage is the Government's advisor on all aspects of the historic environment in England. The National Heritage Act (2002) enabled English Heritage to assume responsibilities for maritime archaeological sites of all types from low water out to the 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial limit around England.

For further information please email:

Media facility

Members of the media wanting to film/take photographs of the survey boat with equipment can meet the boat coming in on FRIDAY 13 APRIL (at approx 2.30pm). Martin Read, project leader, will be available for interviews from 3pm at Chandlers, Queen Anne's Battery, Plymouth. Weather permitting, this allows for photographs/filming looking down on the site in Cattewater from Breakwater Hill. Please advise the Press Office on (01752) 588002 if you would like to take advantage of this facility.

About the University of Plymouth

The University of Plymouth is consistently ranked as one of the top five modern universities in the UK and is a national leader for teaching excellence. This achievement has helped it to secure an extra £33 million in funding over the next five years. It has a record nine National Teaching Fellowships* and demonstrates research of both national and international excellence.

With around 30,000 students (including those who study at partner FE colleges within the University of Plymouth Colleges faculty) it is one of the largest universities in the UK - and proud to retain its reputation for friendliness. With a track record of 'widening participation', business partnerships and vocational courses, it has a high rate of graduate employment and is committed to improving the student experience, demonstrated by significant investment in new facilities.

*Including two with the Peninsula Medical School