Alum Bay II Wreck
Following reports from a local dive centre of a further wreck in Alum Bay, the HWTMA set out to investigate during the 2001 season. Initial searches located scattered pieces of timber, before the remains of Alum Bay 2 were eventually discovered. The site is located a short distance to the southwest of Alum Bay 1, leading to the immediate suggestion that the two sets of remains might be related in some way.
Initial work on the site was carried out in 2001 as part of the HWTMA western SOLMAP which produced a basic plan of the site. Further work in 2002 and 2003 allowed this plan to be revised and expanded, while additional work in 2009 concentrated on collecting dendrochronological samples to allow the vessel to be dated; this work was done by Nigel Nayling (University of Wales Trinity Saint David). Finally, monitoring work in 2010 and 2012 has allowed the condition of the site to be assessed and any changes in the disposition of the wooden remains to be recorded.
Site plan of the Alum Bay 2 wreck.
The seabed remains of Alum Bay 2 measure c.9m in length by about 2.5m wide and are oriented NW-SE. The vessel has been deposited upside down on the seabed, meaning that the visible remains comprise the underneath of the vessel and the outside of the outer planking. Where the planking has become degraded it has been possible to record the frames of the vessel. The vessel was built using a 'frame-first' technique, where the structural frame of the vessel is built first, before the planks are added afterwards. All of the fastenings that have been recorded on the site are wooden treenails. Provisional analysis of the wooden structure indicates that the frames are made from oak and the planking from elm. The dendrochronology samples taken in 2009 from two of the frames have provided a provisional date of 1795 and 1799, although these dates may be refined or changed when this analysis is completed.
Seabed remains of Alum Bay 2.
Identification & Interpretation
The identity of Alum Bay 2 is unknown, although work is ongoing to try to resolve this. Initial suggestions were that the vessel might have been one of the boats from HMS Pomone (wrecked on the Needles in 1811) or from another vessel lost in the vicinity. However, analysis of the structural remains has concluded that the original Alum Bay 2 vessel would have been too large, both in its length and in the size of its frames, for a ship's boat. The current intrpretation of Alum Bay 2 is that it is likely to represent the remains of a fairly small vessel, possibly a local fishing smack, small coastal trading vessel or even a small Naval transport hoy. The date of the wreck is very interesting as not many small vessels have survived and been recorded from this period. Further research into Alum Bay 2 will hopefully be able to confirm the vessel type and in conjunction with the historical records, may lead to an identification of the remains.
Needles Point and Scratchell's Bay in 1816, by WB Cooke; Alum Bay lies to the left. The type of vessels shown could easily represent the type of vessel preserved on the nearby seabed as Alum Bay 2. Courtesy of Robin McInnes.
Monitoring & Management
The site of Alum Bay 2 is covered by a thin layer of sand, that provides protection from erosion and also discourages marine organisms, such as shipworm, from attacking the wood. However, although the site of Alum Bay 2 is quite well preserved, repeat visits to the site by the HWTMA indicate that deterioration of the remains is taking place. This natural deterioration is to be expected, despite the layer of sand protecting the site, which in some years has been observed as increasing in depth (such as 2010). Some of the outer planking that was recorded in 2001 and 2002 has now been lost, while a visit to the site in 2003 noted that a small amount of damage had been done by the anchor of a pleasure boat that had been dragged through the site. The changes that can be seen over a relatively short space of time on a site such as Alum Bay 2 indicate the importance of on-going monitoring of maritime archaeological remains as a means to understand how to preserve and manage them.