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Divers kick-start Royal Adelaide 150 project

Project team-leader Hugh Waite on the Royal Adelaide
Project team-leader Hugh Waite on the Royal Adelaide
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Solent dive-club Swanwick Divers is marking the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the iron-hulled clipper Royal Adelaide off Chesil Beach today (25 November) by initiating an ambitious wreck-mapping project – and is inviting visiting scuba divers to take part.

The BSAC branch plans to provide maritime archaeologists with complete mapping of the popular wreck-site, including investigation of surrounding submerged objects and production of up-to-date imagery and data.

The Royal Adelaide wreck sits around 100m off the beach so can be dived from shore but, because steeply sloping Chesil Bank can make hauling dive-gear laborious, the team will also use dive-boats for its project dives, which will form part of the club’s “Diving with a Purpose” programme. 

“A good relationship with the Nautical Archaeology Society will allow divers to develop marine-archaeology skills,” says Swanwick Divers. “The project-leaders are investigating the use of innovative mapping and GPS technologies alongside more traditional methods of recording data. Club-members are already using photogrammetry to produce 3D models as part of their regular diving.”

The stricken Royal Adelaide
The stricken Royal Adelaide

The Royal Adelaide was built in 1865 at the Patterson yard in Bristol, where the world’s then-biggest ship, Great Britain, was also built. On 25 November, 1872 she was sailing from Devonport to Sydney carrying emigrants and cargo when a storm caused her to follow the wrong course into Lyme Bay.

Four crew died when the ship struck Chesil Beach, and several local wreckers who had come across barrels of gin and rum from the wreck also died – of exposure during the night. Read Stuart Philpott’s account of diving the Royal Adelaide on Divernet.

Participation in the Royal Adelaide 150 project is open to individuals or groups of qualified divers, and to anyone who can offer existing knowledge or images of the wreck-site. Contact Melvyn Utley at info.swanwick@gmail.com or contact the club via its website.

Also On Divernet: Above 18m: Diving Chesil Bank

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