Essex

The London: Seabed images from Southend 'reveal shipwreck erosion'

Diver with container ship in background at The London wreck site Image copyright Carol Ellis
Image caption Diver Steve Ellis said large container ships passing close to the wreck site are causing it to deteriorate

New seabed images provide scientific evidence an "at risk" 17th Century shipwreck is "rapidly deteriorating", says a diver who wants it saved.

The London sank in the Thames estuary in 1665 with the loss of 300 lives.

Historic England commissioned the shipwreck survey. It will be compared to 2016 images to assess its condition.

Steve Ellis said he had seen heavy shipping wash away the battleship's protective mud during a decade of diving.

Image copyright National Maritime Museum, London
Image caption This drawing of the London by Willem van de Velde was made about five years before it sank

"I'm always seeing things be uncovered after a ship goes by and the next time I dive, they have gone," the licensed diver from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex said.

"Just a couple of weeks ago I spotted a complete leather shoe.

"The scans confirm what I keep saying - the site is rapidly deteriorating."

The London was its way to fight in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-67), when it blew up off Southend-on-Sea.

Image copyright Spectrum/MSDS Marine
Image caption Archaeologist Mark Beattie-Edwards says this scan reveals the threat to the site has only got worse
Image copyright Spectrum/MSDS Marine
Image caption The survey cost Historic England just under £40,000

The wreck, which is on Historic England's At Risk Register, was covered by mud until the development of the Thames Gateway port which meant bigger ships sailing on the estuary.

Mr Ellis has already helped bring up hundreds of artefacts, including instruments, gun carriages and a compass.

However, every time he spots something, he has to then seek permission from Historic England each time before he can salvage it, and often objects have disappeared when he dives back down to get them.

Image copyright Steve Ellis
Image caption Steve Ellis said a leather shoe was recently uncovered on the seabed, but had disappeared on his return
Image copyright Historic England
Image caption Volunteers have helped sift through debris recovered from the shipwreck

The Save The London Campaign was set up a year ago by the Nautical Archaeology Society to raise funds to save the wreck.

Its chief executive Mark Beattie-Edwards said their "dream" was for the ship and its artefacts to be housed in a permanent museum in Southend.

He said the new survey provided "empirical evidence the threat to the site has only got worse".

Historic England's maritime archaeologist Hefin Meara said: "Information given to us by Steve Ellis is that the propellers of the big heavy shipping are having an adverse effect.

"We can now compare the recent survey with the 2016 survey to quantify this - and see if this gives us a strong case to go forward."

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