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Isle of Wight Shipwrecks: Treasure, and 'Hazardous'

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Isle of Wight Shipwrecks
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There are few records of shipwrecks during the 17th Century, yet many of those records that do survive mention the same thing - treasure.

In October 1627 the Dutch East India Company sent a convoy to India and Indonesia loaded with Dutch silver daalders and Spanish 'pieces of eight'. Only two days out of port, the small fleet of seven ships was caught in a terrible gale, and was forced into The Solent. Two of them were forced to sail between the Needles, and in the process the 320-ton Vliegende Draecke, with a crew of 200, had a large hole torn in her bottom. The crew transferred its precious cargo to other ships, abandoning their ship in Alum Bay.

Campen sank just south of the Needles, and again the crew was saved, and much of the silver. In 1628 a team headed by a Dutch salvor, Jacob the Diver, and a local merchant, Robert Newland, began to explore the wreck, handing five cannon, 6,660kg of lead, and 2,635 coins to the authorities. Campen was rediscovered in June 1979, when divers raised a further 8,000 silver coins.

In 1636 Bird Phoenix, an English treasure ship, was wrecked in Compton Bay. In 1691 the English galleon St Anthony was lost in Scratchells Bay.

In 1688 England and Holland were allies in a war against France and Spain that was to last 25 years. In 1702, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the fleet under the command of Admiral Sir George Rooke (who later captured Gibraltar) was returning from Cadiz when they discovered a Spanish treasure fleet in Vigo Bay, protected by a French detachment. The English fleet was able to capture five treasure ships, only to meet a terrible storm in the English Channel. Two of the treasure ships were lost, their fate unknown. Yet several Spanish coins dated 1701 have been found in the area around Blackgang Chine...


On the very boundary of the waters of the Isle of Wight, off the Witterings in Bracklesham Bay on the mainland, lie the remains of Hazardous, which sank in a storm in 1706.

Built in 1698 at Fort Louis, France, as Le Hazardeux, a 50-gun Third Rate1, she was captured in 1703 by Admiral Sir Claudsley Shovell. Towed into Portsmouth, she was rebuilt, enlarged, and commissioned in 1704 as a 54-gun Fourth Rate2 ship, armed with a mixture of her original French and English weapons.

On the night of 19 November, 1706, she was under the command of Lieutenant John Hares, who was following the orders of Captain John Lowan, who was in command of Advice. Lowan was convicted of disobeying orders, as he should not have been in The Solent, and convicted of leading the two ships into shoal waters and not signalling to Hazardous when changing course. Hazardous had scraped along the shoals, and Lieutenant Hares successfully ran her ashore, enabling her crew to get off safely. Hares was acquitted for the loss.

Much of the ship, including her cannons, was salvaged. She was rediscovered in the 1970s. In 1986 Hazardous became the 32nd site to be protected by the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act, with plans in 2000 to design a 'Diver Trail' around her, complete with information boards, to present her story to divers. If this scheme goes ahead, it will be the first for a protected British historic wreck.

John Wheeler

The Log of John Wheeler, a longshoreman from Blackgang, is one of the few records we have of shipwrecks of the time. Although it was started in 1757, it mentions how a shipwreck on the Island in 1746 caused the death of 15 men off Rocken End. In all, the Log, which continues until 1808, records over a hundred shipwrecks - and a beached whale.

1In 1698, a Third Rate was defined by the Royal Navy as a two-decked ship 40 - 50 guns, although the rating system was soon to change, with a Third Rate being a 70 - 80 gun three-decker.2In the 1700s, a Fourth Rate was a ship with 50 - 60 guns.

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