Marine Archaeologists Discover The Real Identity Of A Decaying Hull In Plymouth

A team of marine archaeologists has finally discovered the correct identity of a huge wooden ship’s hull buried in Hooe Lake on the outskirts of Plymouth.

The ship’s remains lie buried beside a stone pier on the lake’s north side. The hull has been identified by The Ships Project to be John Sims, which is a Westcountry schooner.

rotting ship hull discovered
Image for representation purposes only

Until recent discovery, it was thought to be a Dutch barge named the Two Brothers.

The Ships Project is a non-profit organization conducting exploration and research of maritime historical events and sites underwater and on land.

Hooe Lake or the “Ship Graveyard” owing to the 36 ship hulls being buried there.

The Ships Project mentioned that it was thought that Hooe Lake was the place where boats were abandoned for centuries.

The lake is shallow and tidal, so the boats can be abandoned when there is high tide but still be accessible whenever the tide recedes.

While writing archaeological surveys, the team found a letter between local historians Martin Langley and John Cotton while looking at John Cotton’s archives.

The safely preserved letter in John Cotton Naval Archives recognizes the vessel as schooner John Sims.

Mallory Haas, the leader of the assignment and a marine archaeologist, said there needed to be more information regarding the Hulk initially. The area was a ship-launching site from Roman times.

However, when an archaeological survey of the hull was reportedly conducted, the team discovered that it wasn’t built like a barge but a Westcountry vessel or a schooner.

Haas added that as far as it can be said, the area has been a zone where vessels were abandoned since the Roman era, so there is a significant amount of mud.

But there are possibly older colossi and shipwrecks below the mud – we cannot see those. It is essential to understand what this place is, although the ones we see are some from the 1890s, 1920s, 1870s, and 1960s. But overall, it shares a tale of Plymouth and maritime heritage.

The Director of Ships Project, Peter Holt, mentioned that per historical records, the John Sims was sailing until 1935 when she was reportedly transformed into a log lighter to be used at the Oreston Timber Yard.

He said that the records reflected that the ship was constructed in Falmouth in 1873 by HS Trethowan. It was for the Sims family and was registered in Plymouth at about 98 tons.

In 1893 the vessel was reportedly sold to Thomas Stevens of Bursledon close to Southampton, then again sold in 1900 to Richard Foster of Gloucester and re-registered at that port.

In 1917 (March), Albert Westcott purchased the vessel, took it to Plymouth and appointed Bill Stiles as the captain.

Peter Holt mentioned that the schooner would’ve made transatlantic voyages before it was transformed into a wood lighter. The register was reportedly closed on the vessel in 1935 when she was a wood lighter in Plymouth.

A little later, the schooner was reportedly launched toward the east of the stone jetty in Lake Hooe – where it remains.

References: BBC, Canada Today, Head Topics

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