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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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August 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Keeping An Important Discovery Secret

from the August, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

More than 15 years ago, two British amateur divers, brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell, hunted for the remains of a historic 17th Century wreck they had only read about. It was reputed to lie off the Norfolk coast near where they lived. After many challenging dives, they found it half buried in the sand. Despite it being at technical diving depths, they wanted to keep their find secret so that it didn't get plundered by others.

Julian and Lincoln discreetly completed a Nautical Archaeology Society course so that they could work with the University of East Anglia maritime archaeologists to excavate the wreck. They are now honorary fellows of the university's School of History because their discovery is the most significant since that of the sunken Tudor warship Mary Rose.

Among the 17th Century artifacts recovered and conserved are clothes and shoes, navigational and naval equipment, personal possessions such as spectacles, and many wine bottles, some still with their contents sealed inside. One bottle has a glass seal with the crest of the Legge family, ancestors of American President George Washington.

The Gloucester had sailed from Portsmouth, with the future English King James II and his entourage joining it later. In the early hours of May 6, 1682, the ship ran aground 30 miles off Great Yarmouth. It sank within an hour, with the loss of as many as 250 passengers and crew. James had delayed abandoning the ship until the last minute. Protocol meant those on board had to wait and were left to their fate.

An exhibition of artifacts recovered from the shipwreck will be displayed in Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in the UK during Spring 2023.

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