Gull Rock wreck, Lundy

MAST, in partnership with the Bournemouth University Maritime Archaeology Society (BUMAS has recently completed a survey of the Gull Rock protected wreck site. The expedition is funded by the BSAC Jubilee Trust and MAST.

The Gull Rock wreck is a medieval (15th/16th century) site to the east of Lundy Island off the north coast of Devon. It was designated in 1990 under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act.

The site is comprised of a finds scatter which includes cannon, cannon balls, small concreted finds and some distinctive blue stones. The project is based around examining the finds, and in particular the cannons to see if any more information can be drawn from the material to tell us any more about the history and origin of the vessel.

A secondary aim of the project is to inspect the site for indications of looting or unauthorised diving. This has been reported previously and could prove to be hugely detrimental if allowed to continue.

The combination of these two research aims will both expand our knowledge of the wreck site, and allow for it to be better managed for future generations.

The team
A team of five camped on Lundy Island and undertook 36 dives from the local charter boat, Lundy Murrelet, an Aquastar 33 skippered by Colin Eastman. All divers worked in pairs and followed strict routines due to the depth of the site (up to 32 metres), which limited dive time to c.20 minutes.

The site survey
The project focused on a tape-based survey on the site which lies at the base of a submerged ridge, to the east of Lundy Island. The site was originally discovered in the 1960s and has been intermittently researched since.

The Gull Rock wreck was originally recorded as having 8 cannon balls, 3 guns (one a breech-loading gun), a metal object (likely modern / non contextual) and a bluestone which was dated by the ordnance to the 15th/16th century. However, since then, and prior to the site’s designation in 1990, looting and vandalism was reported. This included the removal of one of the guns, the breaking in two of another and the removal of several cannon balls.

This meant that the current condition of the finds scatter previously recorded on the site was uncertain. Further, a 2004 survey by Wessex Archaeology only identified two of the guns, and one limestone cannon ball.

Thus one of the main objectives was to identify what archaeological remains were still present on the seabed. The team located two guns, four limestone cannon balls, the modern metal item and the bluestone. All were photographed and detailed drawings of the guns were completed. These will be available soon online.

In addition to the features recorded on the seabed, discussions with the local officials and researchers identified numerous locations where material may now be. However, further detective work will be needed, and there has been no trace of the third gun (the breech loader), first reported missing during the 1990s.

View Gull Rock Wreck Site Survey Report

The Lundy Murrelet

Recording one of the cannon 2. Photo by Stuart Philpot