BURIED beneath the sea for almost 150 years, this timber skeleton of a boat is now revealing its secrets.
The wreck of the Ocean was uncovered during the heavy storms over the winter and research has proved it is the vessel which led to the establishment of Hayling RNLI.
The 100ft, 85-ton schooner was lost in fierce storms in Langstone Harbour in 1865, along with two of its five crew.
Dr Julian Whitewright, from the Maritime Archeological Trust (MAT), said the discovery is hugely significant.
‘The other three men were saved through the heroic action of Major Festing from Fort Cumberland and a crew of volunteer fishermen from Hayling who took a small boat out through the storm and rescued the captain and two crew from the ship,’ he said.
‘The major received a silver medal for bravery from the RNLI and, as a further consequence, Hayling Island lifeboat station was established.’
Marine archaeologists had only a small window to carry out research on the wreck before the shifting sands covered it up again.
Dr Whitewright added: ‘By digging through various archives we’ve found the ship is pretty interesting.
‘It was built in Brixham in 1821 and mainly served in the coastal trade along the English Channel and across to Wales.
‘So in that sense it is a very ordinary ship – which do not always get the recognition or coverage, compared to the big glamorous warships.
‘We have traced the owners and captains of the ship for its 44-year life and have a good account now of the wrecking and rescue of the vessel on the East Winner Bank.
‘The wreck has now been swallowed up by the sands again – there are just a few frame tops sticking up above the sand.
‘In one sense this is excellent as it is now fully protected again, although it means that studying it further is very difficult.’
Lifeboatman Trevor Pearce has also researched its history and found a petition was raised calling for a lifeboat at Hayling immediately after the accident.
He said: ‘Very quickly a lifeboat was donated by Leaf and Company of London and a lifeboat station was built. This station still stands today as the Inn on The Beach. The lifeboat was named Olive Leaf after the daughter of the donor family.’
Donate to MAT’s fund for research at maritimearchaeologytrust.org.