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Dr Innes McCartney

Maritime Archaeologist & Historian, Bournemouth University

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Dr Innes McCartney

Maritime Archaeologist & Historian, Bournemouth University

When a Ship Sinks With a Dangerous Cargo On Board, It Threatens The Safety of the Whole Marine Environment.

Dr Innes McCartney

Maritime Archaeologist & Historian, Bournemouth University

“When a ship sinks with a dangerous cargo on board, it threatens the safety of the whole marine environment. That situation becomes more acute still if you can’t identify the exact location of the ship,” says Innes. “Our research used marine geophysical scanning and the recently digitised records at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) to identify 129 previously unknown or mis-identified wrecks in the Irish Sea. Three of those were tankers – all potentially highly polluting wrecks that could be catastrophic to the marine environment.” Others were carrying munitions which can present a range of other dangers to the environment and sea users.

Supported by Lloyd’s Register Foundation funding, the HEC provides free access to over 1.1 million documents for more than 80,000 ships from its Ship Plan and Survey Report Collection. With a global audience spanning over 190 countries worldwide, this digitised collection is a unique resource that is being used by historians, economists, linguists, ship model enthusiasts and family historians – as well as by marine archaeologists like Innes. “In nearly all cases, the records at the HEC were essential to our work,” adds Innes, whose book ‘Echoes from the Deep’ describes his research and will be published in September 2022. “The HEC enabled us to match plans of missing ships with seabed scans of wrecks. We’ve identified vessels from trawlers and submarines to large ocean liners – as well as munitions ships and tankers.

“One of those tankers is MV Rotula, which was carrying aviation spirit from Nova Scotia when she was bombed by German aircraft in March 1941. Thanks to our research, we now know that she broke in two and is lying in 90 metres of water. With the Rotula correctly identified, marine scientists can now investigate the environmental effects of its cargo on the seabed and the surrounding area.”

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