Situated in Kent, the county with
the longest coastline in England, is a natural phenomenon
feared by sailors throughout the centuries.
The Goodwin Sands is a ten mile sand bank, stretching
from Ramsgate to Dover approximately five miles offshore.
Surrounding the Sands, are treacherous shoals swept
by strong tides. It takes very little wind to cause
tumultuous and confused seas which mark the shoal water
for mariners to avoid.
In thick fog, darkness and adverse weather conditions,
The Goodwin Sands has been the downfall for many seamen
and their vessels. The town of Deal, which lies adjacent
to the Sands, has become famous for the bravery of the
lifeboat service and local boatmen.
In this area the sheer amount of shipwrecks from the
past cannot be truly calculated, and are estimated in
thousands. From these wrecks, there are artefacts and
relics that would fill most of the museums of the world.
It is only the constant movement of the Sands that have
protected and hidden them from detection.
Occasionally a discovery is found which has major impact.
The Bronze Age haul from the seabed near Dover for example,
proved to be the largest cache of axes, rapiers and
spearheads to be located in the country, if not the
The third rate man-of-war Stirling Castle, a
warship from Queen Annes navy, met her fate close
to the Goodwins in the great storm of 1703. When the
ship emerged from a sand wave she was found to be almost
complete. Inside her hull was an entire time capsule
of life from the early eighteenth century. The following
year two more ships, which were commissioned by Samuel
Pepys, were also uncovered.
The East Indiaman, Admiral Gardener, outward-bound,
ended her days on the edge of the sand bank, in a storm,
in 1809. Inside her holds were tons of copper tokens,
minted for the H.E.I.C (Honourable East India Company).
The wreck was rediscovered in 1982 and was heavily salvaged
before the Government could protect her. The coins salved
were counted in millions, and even today are appearing
for sale on the Internet site E-Bay
Once an exposed shipwreck has been discovered the difficulties
are immense. Currents, weather and underwater visibility
are a curse to the diving archaeologists. Also the movement
of the sandbanks make identification of wrecks complicated,
as they can disappear over a tide, as quickly as they
In the future, with the aid of modern technology, new
and more important wrecks will be found. The potential
of the locale is so great that there are steps being
taken to make it a region of world heritage. The treasure-house
of antiquity and history is waiting to be established.
Knowledge and restraint should be required of the divers,
but bureaucratic legislation ought to be relaxed, to
a certain degree, to encourage and not deter them.
Finance and equipment can overcome many of these problems,
but it must be monitored by either the government or
those willing to invest in Britains heritage lying
beneath the sea. Public awareness and Government funding
will ensure the area remains important in maritime and
social history so that we can continue to discover the
mysteries that lie beneath the Goodwin Sands.
©2007 DEAL today