Press Release

29 November 2013 - Plymouth, England

Wreck of HMS Amethyst Found in Plymouth Sound

The wreck of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amethyst that sank in Plymouth Sound in 1811 has been found by the SHIPS Project team. 

The Amethyst was a 36 gun frigate launched in 1799 that fought in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars against the French.  She had a very successful career, capturing more than 46 ships as prizes between 1800 and 1809 including two French frigates. 

On 14th February 1811, HMS Amethyst was preparing to leave Plymouth Sound after finishing repairs and taking on stores.  Captain Walton went ashore and left instructions to recover one of the two anchors holding Amethyst so they could leave quickly when he returned.  The captain came back later on, but did not give orders to sail and did not order a second anchor to be dropped. That night the wind increased to a gale, the single anchor failed to hold the ship and she was blown ashore. 

The ship's cannons were fired as a signal that the ship was in distress which brought people to the scene of the disaster.  Those gathered on the beach managed to secure a rope from the shore to the ship’s bowsprit allowing some of the crew to escape, while others were rescued by local boats. In the morning the ship was stuck firmly on the rocks so all of her guns and stores were removed to make her lighter, but all attempts to refloat her failed.  Another storm caused the ship to start breaking up so carpenters from the Dockyard took her apart where she lay.

The remains of the wreck were found by the SHIPS Project team in July 2013 after researching her story followed by a geophysical survey of the area.  The team found cannonballs, iron ballast, ship fittings and ships timbers partly buried in the muddy seabed and hidden by thick seaweed.  The wreck site was mapped by the dive team and a few objects were recovered for identification.  This winter more research will be done on the life and loss of the Amethyst and next spring the team will go back to the site to carry on the survey and recording work.

The SHIPS Project is funded by ProMare, a US research foundation.

More information and photographs:

Contact: Peter Holt, Project Manager, the SHIPS Project
Mob: +44 (0) 7813 018588
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