Catharina North Shore Llandudno

Catharina North Shore Llandudno

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ships' Timbers / NAS - Hulk Recording Weekend 14th / 15th / 16th November

Across the weekend of 14th / 15th / 16th November 2014, the Nautical Archaeology Society ran a series of events for us in Llandudno about nautical archaeology projects in Wales, and the practical skills needed to survey intertidal shipwrecks such as our Adopted wreck the Flying Foam on the West Shore. The weekend was funded by CADW, and all said it was a great weekend. Here's a summary of events. 
Friday, 14th November, 2014        
Refreshments provided by the West Shore Beach Cafe

The weekend of events started on the evening of Friday 14th November, 2014 with a talk given by Ian Cundy of the Nautical Archaeology Society. Our location for the evening was Llandudno Town Hall, and the title of the talk was 'An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology, and the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) plus A Maritime Archaeology Project: The Story Behind a Mystery Welsh Shipwreck'. Refreshments were provided for people as they arrived, by the West Shore Beach Cafe. And what a delicious spread it was too! Tea and Coffee and homemade biscuits - Anglesey Shortbread, and Flapjacks.    
Ian Cundy, NAS, giving his talk at Llandudno Town Hall 
Forty people were in attendance at the Town Hall and everyone was gripped by Ian's depth of knowledge and very interesting narrative about nautical archaeology. We heard about some of the difficulties faced by archaeologists working in a marine environment in comparison to land based archaeologists. To explore and understand our submerged landscapes marine archaeologists face issues of limited visibility, tides, and sites which are extremely difficult to access generally. Some of the impacts which can affect a site include commercial impacts such as wind farms and tidal lagoon developments, trawler nets, dredging, and global warming. However, despite these issues, the marine environment can offer excellent preservation conditions in comparison to land based sites. And for anyone wanting to get involved in this type of work, the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) is the best place to start. The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) started out in 1964 as the Council for Nautical Archaeology (CNA) which had the remit to act as a channel of communication between divers and the appropriate learned bodies to share discoveries within the field of marine archaeology. NAS has evolved over the years to become a Society not just for divers but for anyone who has an interest in the marine and coastal environment, and its associated heritage. There are many ways to get involved in NAS through its membership such as training courses, the Adopt a Wreck Project, events, newsletters, and a dedicated academic journal - The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA). 
Highlighting some of the difficulties facing underwater archaeology, Ian went on to tell us about a wreck known as the Diamond. The Diamond was a three-masted square rigger, built in New York in 1823. She was one of the first ships to operate a regular service for passengers and cargo between Britain and the United States. Sadly, the Diamond sank in Cardigan Bay, en route to Liverpool from New York on 2nd January 1825. The alleged wreck site was identified in 2000 and was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1977 on 1st April, 2002, the first such designation made by the National Assembly of Wales. However, the identification has since been called into question. In 2002, Ian was granted a license to investigate the wreck. His findings cast serious doubt on whether the designated wreck site is that of the Diamond, as it appears to be that of a larger and later (unidentified) vessel. Metal samples scattered on the site were stamped Muntz Metal, an alloy not patented until 1832, several years after the loss of the Diamond. Wooden samples taken from the main ribs and professionally analysed show that the wood was still growing at the date of the wreck of the Diamond (1825), and was not felled until around 1840! The mystery continues....   
Deanna Groom from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
After Ian had finished his talk there was a short Question and Answer session. And there was no shortage of questions for Ian. It was a pleasure for us to welcome Deanne Groom, Maritime Officer from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales to the talk who was happy to answer questions.

Friday 14th November, 2014 was also Children in Need Appeal Night. We brought some collection buckets to the talk, and are delighted to say that we collected £46:05 during the course of the evening. Thank you / Dioloch.
Saturday 15th November, 2014

Day one of the hulk recording survey skills started with 2D survey methods. This method is used on sites where features are flat. First we covered the basics of the theory which includes making a site sketch / plan and taking photographs before starting any measured recording. Then we covered the basic methods of offsets, trilateration, and ties. 
Pre-fieldwork Risk Assessment and Health and Safety Talk
Before going out on site Bill Turner (NAS Tutor) gave the group a short pre-field work risk assessment talk.  Then equipped with measuring tapes and check sheets the survey team set forth onto the beach.

Although the intention for the weekend was to survey the Ships' Timbers Adopted Wreck, the Flying Foam, the tidal conditions on the day did not allow that so we opted to practise skills on a different feature on the upper foreshore on the west shore. 
The feature was already known to Ships' Timbers before the weekend and some concern had been expressed to the local Authority at one of the Llandudno Coastal Forum meetings that it might be covered over by the forthcoming beach replenishment which is scheduled for next year. So this was an ideal opportunity to further understand, and raise the profile of the feature.     

Ian decided to do some small scale excavation work on the feature. Initial thoughts before the weekend were that the structure might be remains of a wooden groyne or jetty, but with the timber base it does not seem to be that!  

Planning frame drawings were useful to record the feature in more detail, and one team member noticed the presence of nails every 5inches. It helps to focus on the details!

At the end of day one we all returned to a room at the Llandudno Town Hall to analyse results. We used scale drawings to recreate our results adding the planning frame drawings. A super day of survey work.   
Sunday 16th November, 2014
Our second day of survey work focussed upon 3D methods. This is used for recording artefacts that are uneven and where parts of the structure are obscured from a direct line of sight. Again we start with a site plan / sketch and take photos. We then add a series of control points (about 8) around the site, label the parts of the feature we wish to record in our survey and take a series of measurements from each point to a minimum of four control points. A dumpy level is used to measure the depth (height) of the parts of the feature we wish to survey. It is very straight forward. 

At the end of Day two we then went to Blind Veterans - Llandudno to analyse the results using some software called Site Recorder.
Final Thoughts
Upon completion of the two day survey training and from attending the talk on nautical archaeology, many more people are now more aware of the benefits and limitations of doing maritime archaeology. Ships' Timbers certainly is better equipped to draw on more people with an ability to carry out survey work on the foreshore with subsequent data analysis. This will really help when we come to survey the Flying Foam.
And finally, do we know what our west shore survey feature is? No not yet. So just like the Diamond - the mystery continues!
Ships' Timbers would like to thank CADW for providing the funding for this weekend event, to the Nautical Archaeology Society and Ian Cundy and Bill Turner for their knowledge and professional instruction in the delivery of the talk and course across the weekend on the west shore, to the West Shore Beach Café for letting us use their café for the theory part of the course and for the marvellous refreshments provided at the talk in the Town Hall, to Blind Veterans - Llandudno for the use of the IT facilities, to everyone who attended the talk at Llandudno Town Hall and also to those who gave a donation to help the Children in Need Appeal, and to everyone who attended the Survey Days on the west shore Llandudno 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Sinking of The Ocean Monarch 24th August 1848

On this Day 24th August 1848 a terrible shipwreck occurred a few miles to the north of Llandudno. A fifteen hundred ton sailing ship, the Ocean Monarch caught fire. On board were over three hundred and fifty passengers and a crew of forty. The passengers were British migrants on their way to start a new life in America. Many theories have been suggested for the cause of the fire such as passengers lighting a fire in one of the ship’s ventilators, or a crew member had been careless when lighting a candle near some loose straw. Whatever the cause in a very short time a large part of the ship was ablaze.

Local Impact

Flames from the vessel were visible for many miles from land and sea. And the tragedy had a huge impact on the inhabitants of Llandudno. In his 1893 publication, ‘Adgofion am Llandudno’, ‘Recollections of Llandudno’, by Thomas Rowlands, translated by Local Historian, Tom Parry, Rowlands recalls,
“I will mention only one incident which cast sadness and sorrow over our lives. One afternoon news reached the village that a large ship was on fire outside Llandudno Bay. Everyone abandoned their pleasures and their duties and raced to the Fach (the Happy Valley), on arrival we saw, about fifteen miles out to sea, the large emigrant ship, The Ocean Monarch, with flames running up the rigging and the masts. There were hundreds of emigrants on board when the fire broke out. They had just left the port of Liverpool and were full of high hopes of reaching America, and thought, as they left the old country, that they were bidding goodbye to oppression. But no, within a few hours the two most destructive elements had turned against then, the fire and the water and threatened not only their comforts but their very lives.”
Assisting the Stricken Vessel
In a very short time ships came from all directions in order to try and assist the stricken vessel. First on the scene was the luxury yacht, Queen of the Ocean, homeward bound from Beaumaris Regatta to Liverpool. It was followed by the Brazilian steam frigate Alfonso, the paddle steamer Prince of Wales en route from Dublin, the American ship, New World bound for New York and several others. Anchors were dropped to keep the Ocean Monarch’s bow to the wind in order to confine the fire to the vessel’s stern whilst evacuating the passengers to the rescue vessels. The Alfonso succeeded in rescuing 156, but by the end of the day 178 lives had been lost. After burning for twenty hours the ship sank. This was one of the worst accidents to befall migrants from Britain to America during the nineteenth century. The ship’s figurehead was washed ashore at Rhos on Sea and adorned the wall of the Mountain View Hotel in Mochdre for many years. The wreckage of the Ocean Monarch is one of the hundreds of wrecks littering the sea bed in Liverpool Bay.
Pottery from the Wreck Site of the Ocean Monarch

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Commemorating the Sinking of the Submarine HMS Thetis 75 years ago today 1st June, 1939.

The Sinking of the Submarine HMS Thetis

When the Thetis left Birkenhead on 1st June 1939, she was carrying a crew of 53 sailors together with a further 50 people: 26 Cammell Laird shipyard employees, 9 dockyard managers and fitters, 9 Royal Navy officers from submarine headquarters, 4 Vickers Armstrong employees and 2 representatives of a firm of Liverpool caterers, who were to supply the pies, sandwiches and beer. The submarine was led out to sea by the tug Grebecock, which was going to act as the escort ship.

The Thetis reached its diving position and at about 2.00 pm Commander Guy Bolus signalled the beginning of the dive and informed that the submarine would be underwater for three hours. The tug Grebecock, commanded by Lieutenant Coltart, went to a position half a mile away, but it was not anchored and so it continued to drift away from the dive area and eventually lost the position of the submarine when this submerged. This error contributed to the series of blunders that ended up in the tragedy which ensued, as it delayed the rescue operation which could have saved the loss of so many lives.

Before the Thetis started the dive, the Grebecock offered the Cammell Laird workers the opportunity to leave the submarine, but all of the 50 non-crew people chose to stay on board. Once the dive started, the Thetis remained too light to submerge. The people on board the tug Grebecock noticed that for 25 minutes the Thetis struggled to submerge. Then, suddenly, she went under. After a series of errors the Thetis bow hit the bottom of the Sea 14 miles out at sea, north-east of Anglesey's Point Lynas Light. 
The Stern of HMS Thetis
The observers on the Grebecock had been alarmed by the submarine's sudden dive and raised the alarm. The Thetis sent an S.O.S and could only wait for help to arrive and hope for the best. Men were cramped inside the submarine, with a limited amount of air to keep them alive. The Thetis was still somewhat buoyant and the crew tried to get the stern as near the surface as possible. Sixty tons of drinking water and fuel oil were dumped, allowing the ship to rise stern first out of the water for some time. Worried relatives were told that the men were all safe.

During that short period, sailors began slipping through an escape hatch at the rear of the vessel, but only 4 men succeeded before the ship settled back into deep water again. These people were Captain Oram, Lieutenant Woods, Leading Stoker Walter Arnold and a Laird engine fitter named Frank Shaw. Four other men slipped through the hatch after the submarine began to dive again, but they did not make it. A jammed exit hatch, combined with the mounting weakness, breathlessness and giddiness of those on board, resulted in failed attempts and death. The remaining 99 men inside the submarine died.


Support From Llandudno Lifeboat
Llandudno Lifeboat, Thomas Annie Wade Richards (Llandudno Lifeboat from 1933 -1953) was launched to attend the scene on Friday, 2nd June, to take Dr A. Maddock Jones to the spot 14 miles into Liverpool Bay, where 99 men were slowly dying. Four men had escaped from the Thetis and Dr A. Maddock Jones had answered the Navy’s ‘SOS’ from his surgery on the promenade near the lifeboat slipway. He said, ‘It was probably felt that others would come up from the submarine, but they did not. I waited throughout the day but unfortunately my services were not needed’. Five days later the Llandudno Lifeboat returned to the scene to cast a wreath upon the waves while a bugler sounded the Last Post from the Quarterdeck of HMS Hebe. 
   Llandudno Lifeboat Thomas and Annie Wade Richards
Reference is made to the HMS Thetis in the Llandudno Lifeboat Station Minute Book during the AGM held at 19 Trinity Place, Llandudno dated 22nd January, 1940. During the Coxswains report for the previous year he comments on the fact that the Llandudno Lifeboat took Dr A. Maddock Jones to the scene of the disaster and that the boat returned again to the funeral service to lay a wreath. ‘ 

Local Memory
Local resident Mrs Fay Wareham, nee Brookes who was a young girl of 9 years at the time of the Thetis tragedy remembers the occasion. Mrs Wareham recalls, ‘I used to go for a walk around the Marine Drive with my Aunty Annie every Sunday afternoon. On that Sunday, I remember seeing the hull of the Thetis in the Sea. I can remember it vividly even now. We all knew what had happened to all those men. It was such a tragedy that they could not get them out.’ 

Thetis Rescue Attempt

Operation Subsmash was put into action, with Captain I.A.McIntyre in charge, but his efforts to save the people inside the sub went awry. The commander of the Grebecock had left the tug to drift out of position and so the exact position of the Thetis was not known. Aircraft flew over the area and located the submarine, but then called inaccurate locations. Cutting equipment was not ordered until it was too late. A salvage ship arrived in time to attach a wire hawser around the stern of the submarine and then with the help of winches an effort was made to pull the sub back to the surface. However, the strain on the wire cable was too much, the hawser snapped and Thetis sank to the bottom. Naval divers who could have helped were stranded on the Clyde waiting for civilian colliers to load their ships' bunkers. Nobody had the bright idea to fly them to the disaster area. On Saturday 3rd June 1939, the Admiralty announced that all hope of further survivors would be abandoned. 

Recovering the Thetis 
The bodies of the 99 suffocated people remained inside the Thetis for about four months until autumn, when a mammoth salvage operation beached the wreck at Moelfre Bay, Anglesley. It was the same day that Great Britain declared war on Germany and her Allies. Human remains that had not already been removed by the salvage team were now brought out. Forty-four of those men were interned in a mass grave in Holyhead where a memorial was dedicated to them. 

The Submarine HMS Thetis Beached on Traeth Bychan in 1939

Remembering the Sinking of HMS Thetis in 2014
On 31st May, 2014 a short informal service was held at Maeshyfryd Cemetery, Holyhead, Anglesey to mark the 75th anniversary since the sinking of the submarine HMS Thetis off the Great Orme, Llandudno on 1st June 1939 with the loss of 99 lives. 
Present at the service was The Reverend Dr Kevin Ellis, The Mayor of Holyhead, representatives of the Submariners Association, Holyhead RNLI Coxswain Brian Thomson MBE, representatives of Holyhead Maritime Museum, and other individuals. After the service refreshments were on offer at Holyhead Maritime Museum. 


Afterwards members of the Submariners Association went to Traeth Bychan to lay a wreath
Traeth Bychan on 31st May, 2014

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Beacon Watch Towers on the North Wales Coast - Bryniau Tower

On Friday 9th May, 2014 Ships' Timbers met with representatives of the Deganwy History Group to visit the Bryniau Tower. Ships’ Timbers has been researching and developing a large maritime heritage project over the last 12 months called ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea’, an aspect of which includes Coastal Defence, and local heritage features relating to that. One of the features we will be including in this project is Bryniau Tower. We will be carrying out a detailed resurvey of the Tower, and a review of its history linked to the other watch towers along the north wales coast. As the Deganwy History Group is an active research group we thought they might like to get involved with our work. We gave a presentation about the ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea Project’ to the Committee of the Deganwy History Society earlier in the year and further to that arranged a site visit. All said we had a very enjoyable and interesting visit to the Tower.

Bryniau Tower is an isolated ruined semi-circular shaped structure located on the south-west end of a low ridge near Bryniau Farm, approximately half a mile north of Deganwy Castle. It stands at an altitude of 80m.

 The rough coursed purple grit walls are approximately 5m high with internal set-backs. In plan it forms a 240 degree sector of an annulus of 4m internal diameter. 

As an introduction to the history of Bryniau Tower, there is an interesting summary written by George Lloyd in Archaeological Cambrensis, Vol. 113 (1964) called Beacon Watch Towers of the North Wales Coast. Lloyd’s article includes the watch towers of Abergele, Whitford, Llandrillo, and Deganwy. The general reason given in this paper for building the towers is as a means of raising alarm along the coastline of imminent danger from Pirates.


For centuries the coasts and shipping of Britain had been subjected to Piracy, this was especially so during the first half of the seventeenth century when James I and Charles I allowed the Elizabethan Navy to become so depleted that our shipping and coasts were at the mercy of pirates.
In ‘England Under the Stuarts’ (1960), Trevelyan writes, ‘Though our armed trading ships showed stout fight against pirates of every nation, the Royal Navy did almost nothing to protect them even in the Channel. Between 1609 and 1616 Turkish Pirates from Algiers guided by English renegades took 466 of our merchant vessels; in 1625 they carried off 1,000 of our seamen as slaves and took twenty seven vessels in ten days’.  
There are four references in the ‘Gwydir Papers’ to Piracy along the north wales coast during the 17th Century. In one letter dated 1649, a reference is made to a dispute between the Earl of Leicester and Lord Bulkeley, and states, ‘that there were goods in Anglesey which were in danger of being taken away by Wexford Pirates’.
During the first 40 years of the seventeenth century, law and order in this locality rested upon the powers of Sir Thomas Mostyn (1535 – 1618) and his successor Sir Roger Mostyn (1559 - 1642).
Sir Thomas Mostyn held a number of important positions and was the largest landowner from the Dee to the Conwy. It would have been his responsibility to protect the inhabitants and coastal shipping from pirates whose lairs were in the creeks of the Isle of Man and Ireland.  Similarly, Sir Roger Mostyn would oversee all local improvements including defence against pirates.  
It is likely then that these watch towers were built during the time of Sir Thomas Mostyn and were manned to provide a warning, by flame or smoke, of the imminent strike by pirates, and marauding bands. Not as single units, but as a series of coastal watch towers they would communicate with one another by beacon covering a stretch of coast of about 50 miles on which were located the notable houses of Mostyn, Talacre, Penrhyn Old Hall, Gloddaeth, and Bodysgallen.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ship Worms UK and the Flying Foam West Shore Llandudno

An interesting project is underway at Bournemouth University to develop a national and international database about shipworms. Project leader is Paola Palma, programme leader in MSc Maritime Archaeology at Bournemouth University, whose research interests include the monitoring, degradation, and preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage. The boring molluscs of the Teredinidae family, commonly known as shipworms, are notorious for the high level of damage they cause in wooden ships and other structures in the marine environment. Indeed the destructive potential of shipworm, especially to archaeological wood, is often underestimated. Internally, attacked timbers may be thoroughly honeycombed although externally the wood may look intact.
But shipworms are not a recent problem. They were a well-known problem to all ancient mariners because of the damage they caused to the hulls of ships. In fact it was such a big issue that even poets and historians like Ovid and Pliny were writing about it in Roman times. Different approaches were taken to try and solve the problem – such as “covering the keel with a sacrificial timber called a 'worm shoe', and sheathing the hulls with lead or copper. Other attempts to remove the problem include painting the hull with tar, or lime and fish oil, or when possible, ships were run upriver into fresh water where all marine growth and borers would die in a few days. Despite these efforts and more, a huge number of ships were wrecked, across the centuries, due to shipworms attack.
With the wreck of the Flying Foam lying on the west shore, Llandudno, it will be an interesting investigation to see if the timbers are subject to any of this type of degradation.
Two ways to check this out. First a visual inspection of the timbers, and then some microscope work, of small timber samples by Paola in Bournemouth. We are hoping to write a short paper on our findings.