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Ports of Jersey to help with wreck project

News | Published:

STAFF from Ports of Jersey are due to take one of their sonar-equipped vessels to Kent later this week to help with a project to excavate an 18th-century shipwreck.

The Jersey Coastguard’s pilot boat, Rival, carrying out a depth survey in St Peter Port Harbour

In 1740, the former Dutch East India Company’s trade vessel, Rooswijk, which was bound for Indonesia, ran aground with the loss of 250 lives.

It now lies 20 metres underwater on the Goodwin Sands.

More than 1,000 vessels are known to have been wrecked on the site, which is known as ‘the great ship swallower’.

Work to excavate the Rooswijk began last summer and divers have so far found a sailor’s shoe, glass bottles, scorched tiles from its stove and pewter jugs, among other items. The shipwreck is still owned by the Dutch government.

Silver coins were also recovered with holes in them – an indication that the crew sewed them to their clothes in an effort to smuggle them illegally.

In 2016, Ports of Jersey installed a £240,000 depth sounder system on one of its two pilot boats which can build detailed and accurate hydrographic images of the seabed.

And now, the organisation has been commissioned to use the high-tech device to carry out an underwater survey of the shipwreck area.

Jamie Dollimore, senior marine officer for Ports of Jersey, who is one of the two crew who will take the vessel, Rival, to the UK, explained what they would be doing.

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‘Now that they have done a lot of their excavation work we are going over to do a survey of the site. From what I understand, Goodwin Sands is quite a dynamic area and the sand tends to shift around,’ he said. ‘We will be based out of Ramsgate and we will do some calibration tests to make sure that the sensors are aligned properly, which will take a couple of hours.

‘Then we will spend around half a day working on the site before making sure that the data is good, and then we will come back.’

In 2017, Rival was taken to a three-day trade show in Southampton by staff from Ports of Jersey to showcase its sonar capabilities.

And Mr Dollimore said that although the vessel had worked outside the Island before, this would be its first commercial contract in the UK.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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