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Full Speed Ahead – Wreck of the British Empire

by RB


Wreck of British Empire - Filey Museum

On 27th February 1900 the 106ft long Steam Trawler British Empire struck rocks at Speeton. She had been fishing in heavy weather and was returning to her home port of Hull.  The weather was foggy and her skipper had taken lead soundings to assess his position. He thought he was on course for the Humber Estuary and continued on at full speed with no proper watch, even though the visibility was poor. On this occasion, unlike many others in the area of Speeton and Bempton, there was no loss of life. In a subsequent enquiry in March, the Captain lost his Master’s ticket. In the days before global positioning, such groundings were common.

Filey Brigg – Wreck of Eglantine dark garden of the undersea

by RB

In the early hours of April 16th 1915 the 1300 ton Collier Eglantine Struck Filey Brigg in a position about mid way between the end of the Brigg and the Bell Buoy which marks the Brigg as a shipping hazard. The Eglantine’s captain had been trying to avoid, what he thought was a German Submarine by taking his ship inshore. The local lifeboat was called out and all the crew were rescued safely with no loss of life.

Over the years winter gales have destroyed most of the wreck leaving metal plates, the propeller shaft and other resistant parts remaining. The ship lies in about 15 metres of water and the  Filey Brigg Research Group used the site for part of their biological monitoring project in the mid nineties. The photographs in this gallery show the types of life aroud the wreck, including large clumps of dead men’s fingers which are like a sort of soft coral. Even at this depth, sediment in the water cuts our much of the light. At 25 metres or so, there is very little light at all.Our gallery photographs below show the gloomy conditions and the exotic carpet of animals when the area is lit:

Diver counts dead men's fingers Eglantine site

Diver counts dead men’s fingers Eglantine site

Steel beam on wreck of Eglantine

Steel beam on wreck of Eglantine

Part of Propeller shaft on Eglantine

Part of Propeller shaft on Eglantine

Light Bulb sea squirts at Eglantine Site Bryozoans on Eglantine Dead men's fingers above wreck plate on Eglantine

Light Bulb sea squirts at Eglantine Site

Bryozoans on Eglantine

Dead men’s fingers above wreck plate on Eglantine

Dead men's fingers (t top) on Eglantine Colonial Sea squirts site of Eglantine Wreck of Eglantine - courtesy Filey Museum

Dead men’s fingers (top) on Eglantine

Colonial Sea squirts site of Eglantine

Wreck of Eglantine – courtesy Filey Museum

The Search for the Bonhomme Richard

by RB

The wreck of the Bonhomme Richard has been described as the last great wreck to be discovered, in the same league as the Titanic, Bismarck or Lusitania. The ‘Bonhomme’ is a name lknown to most American school children and very few English ones. Huge amounts of finance and resources have been spent by two American Groups and in 2008 the American government even committed a nuclear powered submarine, the NR1 to search our local seabed. Could it be that a small group of amateur divers, the Filey Underwater Research Group, have already found the wreck ? Read the Full Story in a National Geographic Article, quotes from which appear below:

The Ocean Technology Foundation

“….. when you run this mountain of data through a supercomputer… , you come

up with the Bonhomme Richard’s sinking a good many miles out to sea, not in Filey Bay.’

Clive Cussler’s Group

“The wreck, wherever it may be,\will be found well offshore. “It just seems too hard to believe that the Bonhomme Richard could havesomehow drifted back into Filey Bay, and not only that but sunk within full view of town without anybody seeing it.”

 The Filey Underwater Research Group

“There is in fact nothing in any written records or local folklore of a ship like the Filey wreck sinking anywhere near the coast—except for one, the Bonhomme Richard. A ship that gets into trouble off Flamborough Head will drift into Filey every time,” Adams says. “Anybody around here can tell you that. We know how the tides work. We have to. After all, it’s our livelihood, and in real life they just don’t flow the way those computer models say they do.”’

Do you believe in the power of Supercomputers and academic historical research or in generations of local knowledge about tidal currents  gathered by generations of Fishermen? The FURU wreck bears several similarities to that of the Bonhomme, but there remains insufficient proof. Meanwhile the wreck is protected under UK legislation.

Wreck of the Sleuth Hound – Filey Brigg

by RB

Part of wreck believed to be Sleuth Hound

Part of wreck believed to be Sleuth Hound

Deck of Wreck believed to be Sleuth Hound

Deck of Wreck believed to be Sleuth Hound

The Sleuth Hound was a small steam trawler of 150 tons owned by the Humber Steam Trawling Company. On the 27th October 1897 she was homeward bound for Hull in a thick fog when she ran into the end of Spittals on Filey Brigg . All the crew were saved. When the Filey Brigg Research Group were taking photographs of the Spittals structure they found an iron wreck which is believed to be that of the Sleuth Hound.

The Battle of Flamborough Head – A war of propaganda

by RB


painting of John Paul Jones by G. Briggs

Most American School Children know of the famous Battle of Flamborough Head  of 23rd September 1779 , involving the ‘father of the American Navy’ John Paul Jones who commanded a small squadron. The battle has been presented as a ‘single ship action’, but Jones was the commodore of a total of four vessels, including his flagship the ‘Bonhomme Richard’ , matched against two on the British side including the 44 gun Serapis commanded by Richard Pearson and a small ten gun sloop. Pearson was escorting a convoy from the Baltic of over fourty ships.

Jone’s took on the Serapis and was nearly defeated, as one of the other ships in his Squadron opened fire at both the Serapis and Bonhomme Richard, probably one of  the first recorded incidents of ‘friendly fire’ in United States history. At one point when asked to surrender Jones is alleged to have uttered the immortal words ‘I have not yet begun to fight’. The phrase is probably an approximation of what he actually said. The Bonhomme Richard was severely damaged and later sank. Jones captured the Serapis and made off in her.

From the first the accounts of the battle and particularly Jones himself were radically different. Both sides claimed victory. Captain Pearson lost his ship but saved the convoy which fulfilled his orders. The British press portrayed Jones as a murderous pirate and renegade; the American side a heroic Warrior. More than fourty Biographies were subsequently written about Jones. A low point was reached in the fictional biography written by Augustus C. Buell, who went as far as forging letters, including one from Jones which described the idealised qualities of an American Naval Officer.

More than one hundred men suffered appalling injuries including terrible burns. The irony is that the Bonhomme Richard crew list shows that majority of the casualties fighting on the American side were men who were listed as English or Portuguese. Several groups have been searching for the Bonhomme Richard over the years, could a local group, the Filey Underwater Research Unit has found it.