The broken remains included a few small steel and iron sections of plating jammed in the rocks, but most interesting the first time we dived the site was the discovery of a gully that seemed to hold a variety of small brass artefacts caught in the concretion of rusting iron objects.
The outer layers of the brass telescope have eroded away.
We instantly recognised the remains of a brass telescope protruding from this concretion.
The inner layers of smaller brass tubes had been exposed as the instrument had been worn away in the rough conditions.
We left the items where they were initially, but then decided to try to recover what was left of them before the next set of winter storms had a chance to damage them even further.
At this point we couldn’t be certain that this was the wreck of the Boyne, because many other vessels had been lost during the same time period along the coast.
As we set to work, to our amazement some incredibly well-preserved items started to emerge. Beneath the telescope was a layer of wooden pieces and small brass items in a very eroded state.
The brass instrument, as found, still in its box. Right: the cleaned-up chronometer.
Then came three intact muskets, navigation equipment, a silver knife and fork and an intact wooden box containing the ship’s brass chronometer.
The first three muskets to emerge.
The state of preservation of these artefacts was unlike any we had ever seen on a wreck along this coast before. It seemed that by good fortune the items had come to rest in the base of that deep, steep-sided gully, and this had protected most of them from the abrasive action of the sea during the winter storms.
The silver knife and fork bore the letter T, representing Tindell. This, along with a single coin of the right date and the chronometer, provided a very good likelihood of the wreck being the Boyne.
Further research in the archives would uncover a document that referred to the ship’s crew having been armed for their journey to the Far East, including the loading on board the ship of several muskets – just like the ones we had recovered. We hadn’t realised it but the gully seemed to contain the only real selection of preserved items from the wreck of the Boyne.
There are other gullies around it, but they were more exposed to the south-west swell that smashes into this reef for nine months of the year.
So all that was left among the more mobile boulders and stones were tiny fragments of destroyed brass and china.
We returned whenever the weather allowed, and eventually were able to fully exacavate the gully down to bedrock.
Jammed right in the base was a final fourth musket, perfectly preserved with an intact stock and all its brass furniture remaining in situ. This gun alone took four painstaking hours’ work to remove.
The sight of artefacts that originally drew the divers to the gully.
All the recovered items have been reported to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Receiver of Wreck as per UK salvage law.
They are currently undergoing preservation and we hope they will go on display somewhere locally so that the public can be reminded of such long-lost wrecks and the fate of the crews who travelled in those dangerous times.