HMS Colossus Wrecking Project 2017

Kevin Camidge, 2018

Data copyright © Kevin Camidge unless otherwise stated

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Kevin Camidge
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeology Society
10 Tolver Place
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Kevin Camidge (2018) HMS Colossus Wrecking Project 2017 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


HMS Colossus Wrecking Project 2017

In December 1798 HMS Colossus, a 74 gun warship built in 1787 at Gravesend, was on her way home to England with wounded from the Battle of the Nile and with cargo, including part of Sir William Hamilton’s second collection of Greek pottery. She was sheltering from a gale in St Mary’s Roads, Isles of Scilly, when the anchor cable parted and she was driven aground to the south of Samson. All but one member of the crew were taken off safely before Colossus turned onto her beam ends and proceeded to break up. To date, two main areas of wreckage have been identified, the bow site and the stern site. In 1975 part of the wreck (probably the bow) was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act. This designation was revoked in 1984. The current site, the stern, was designated in 2001.

Fieldwork was undertaken by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeology Society (CISMAS) for two weeks in May 2017. Large areas of the seabed around the stern site were searched in detail in order to better understand the events leading to the present disposition of wreck material on the seabed. This was mainly prompted by the proposal of a new wrecking theory by CISMAS in 2015.

This project revisits the loss of the ship, the historic salvage of the wreck and the rediscovery of the site and subsequent excavation by Roland Morris in the 1970s. The evolution of our understanding of how and where Colossus was wrecked is examined in some detail. This is followed by an explanation of the new wrecking theory - and how the results of this year’s survey accord with it.