Going off topic today. I have always been interested in shipwrecks. I don’t know why, but the idea of the remains of a ship, and its contents lying on the bottom of the sea just fascinates me, as it does a lot of people. In fact, shipwreck memorabilia is an interesting hobby, as it is interesting to hold something that has spent decades at the bottom of the sea in your hands.
The most common shipwreck memorabilia are coins. Business and sailing were one in the same for many years, as companies made and shipped goods for sale all over the world, and the ships came back with large amounts of coins. When the unthinkable happened, and the ship sank, these coins were lost to the bottom of the sea, until recently, when the ability to dive down and explore these ships has become much more commonplace. Divers love to explore shipwrecks, and they will find items from the time, and bring them back to the service, either for their own collection, or to sell to other. These are examples of shipwrecked coins.
The Dutch East India company was founded on March 20, 1602, and the first company to sell stock in themselves. They were heavily involved in the spice trade, at one point having a monopoly on the Dutch spice trade. While profitable for a while, it was a corrupt venture, so much so, it ceased to exist on December 31, 1799. The ships used were known as “Dutch East Indiaman.” These are coins from the Dutch East Indiaman Merestein, which sank off which sank off the coast of Southern Africa in 1702. They spent over 260 years underwater, when they were discovered and recovered in the 1970’s. They still have silt on them from their time at the bottom.
Admiral Alan Gardner, 1st Baron Gardner was a career sailor in the British Royal Navy. He is well known for negotiating during the Mutiny at Spithead in 1797, and introducing lemon juice to prevent scurvy. He had a East Indiaman named after him, which was built in 1796, and sank on the Goodwin Sands in 1809. There were a large amount of coins which were stored in tightly sealed barrels on board. They were recovered in 1986, and examples like these two, were sold to the general public. They were mounted in plastic containers with nice graphics, and the back story of the Admiral Gardner. They also came with COA’s.
Moving away from coins, we move to this item from the SS Larchmont. The SS Larchmont was built in 1885 at Bath, Maine. It was a 252 foot long steamer that sailed from New York to Providence, Rhode Island. February 11, 1907, Larchmont collided with the Harry P. Knowles in a blizzard, and sank in 10 minutes. Between 10 and 19 people of the over 200 people on board survived. This brass item was pulled from the wreck site, and has been mounted to a wooden base with a brass plaque on it. I’m not sure what exactly it is.
No other shipwreck is as well known and has inspired so much intrigue as the Titanic. Launched in 1912, and ironically, despite the fact that it was lauded as being “unsinkable,” it sank during its first voyage. While the ship and most of the heavier items sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, lighter items, such as wooden items floated and drifted for a while. This small sliver of wood was found during the search for survivors.
In 1985, Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found the wreckage of the Titanic at the bottom of the sea. Since his initial discovery, many artifacts have been recovered, including this piece of coal, which was sold at the Titanic artifact exhibition tour.
Next week, we look at a remnant from a once-promising career.