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Wreck of the SS Mahratta on the Goodwin Sands, 1909.
This was one of two vessels of the name to be wrecked on these Kentish shoals.
Goodwin Sands are a 10-mile long sand bank in the English Channelmarker, lying six miles east of Dealmarker in Kentmarker, Englandmarker. As the shoals lie close to major shipping channels, more than 2,000 ships are believed to have been wrecked upon them, and as a result they are marked by numerous lightships and buoys. Notable shipwrecks include the VOC ship Rooswijkmarker, HMS Stirling Castlemarker, the SS Montrose, which once carried the murderer Dr. Crippen, and the South Goodwin Lightship. The Brake Bank lying shorewards is part of the same geological unit.

East Goodwin Lightship
is currently a lightship on the end of the sands, on the farthest part out to warn ships. The sands were once covered by two lighthouses on the Kent mainland, one each at the north and south ends of the sands. The southern lighthousemarker is now owned by the National Trust, and the northern onemarker is still in operation.

When hovercraft ran from Dovermarker, they used to make occasional trips to the sands.

An annual cricket match was until 2003 played on the sands at low tide, and a crew filming a reconstruction of this for the BBC television series Coast had to be rescued by the Ramsgatemarker lifeboat when they experienced difficulty in 2006.

Several naval battles have been fought nearby, including the Battle of Goodwin Sandsmarker in 1652 and the Battle of Dover Strait in 1917.

In 1974 a plan was put forward to build a third London airport on the Goodwin Sands, with a huge harbour complex, but the idea faded into obscurity.

Lomea

The suggestion that the Goodwin Sands are not a mere shifting of the sea bottom shaped by currents and tides arose when borings in connection with a plan by Trinity Boardmarker to erect a lighthouse on the Sands revealed, beneath fifteen feet of sand, a stratum identified by Charles Lyell as the London clay lying upon a chalk basement. This was interpreted by Lyell as the eroded remains of a clay island similar to Sheppeymarker. Lyell's assessment was uncritically followed until the mid-twentieth century, and enlarged upon by G.B. Gattie who asserted, based on unsourced legends, that the sands were once the fertile low-lying island of Lomea, which he equated with an island said to be known to the Romans as Infera Insula ("Low Island"). This, Gattie said, was owned in the first half of the 11th century by Godwin, Earl of Wessex, after whom the sands are named. When he fell from favour, the land was given to St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterburymarker, whose abbot failed to maintain the sea walls, leading to the island's destruction, in the storm of 1099 mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. However, the island is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, suggesting that if it existed it may have been inundated before that work was compiled in 1085–86. The earliest written record of the name "Lomea" seems to be in a 1590 work De Rebus Albionicis by a John Twyne (or Twine), but no authority for the island's existence is given.

The modern understanding is that the area now covered by sands and sea has in fact been dry land; however, the Strait of Dover opened in the the Weald-Artois chalk range in geological time, the Pleistocene, not within historical time.

Notable events

17th century

  • John, the son of Phineas Pett of Chatham, was involved in an ordeal in the beginning of October 1624, when occurred: "a wonderful great storm, through which many ships perished, especially in the Downs, amongst which was riding there the Antelope of His Majesty, being bound for Ireland under the command of Sir Thomas Button, my son John then being a passenger in her. A merchant ship, being put from her anchors, came foul of her, and put her also from all her anchors, by means whereof she drove upon the brakes [the Sands], where she beat off her rudder and much of the run abaft, miraculously escaping utter loss of all, for that the merchant ship that came foul of her, called the Dolphin, hard by her utterly perished, both ship and all the company. Yet it pleased God to save her, and got off into the downs, having cut all her masts by the board, and with much labour was kept from foundering." Phineas Pett received news of the shipwreck at Dealmarker, and was dispatched by the Lord Admiral to attend to the ship and use his best means to save her. He used chain pumps, replaced the rudder, and fitted jury masts, by which effort she was safely brought to Deptford Dock.




Great Storm of 1703

In the the Great Stormmarker at least 13 men of war and 40 merchant vessels were wrecked in the Downs, with the loss of 2,168 lives and 708 guns. Yet, to their credit, the Deal boatmen were able to rescue 200 men from this ordeal.

Naval vessels lost to the sands included:
  • HMS Northumberlandmarker Deptford built, and, from there locally manned, lost with all hands
  • HMS Restorationmarker Deptford built, and, from there locally manned, lost with all hands; also
  • HMS Stirling Castlemarker, a 70-gun third rate built at Deptford in 1679.
  • the Woolwich fourth-rate HMS Marymarker was totally overwhelmed with the loss of 343 men.
  • the boom ship HMS Mortar was lost with all of her 65 crew.


19th-20th century

The brig Mary Whitemarker was wrecked on the Sands in a storm in 1851; seven men of her crew were rescued by the lifeboat from Broadstairsmarker.

The Belgian cargo SS Cap Lopezmarker was wrecked on the sands in 1907.

The Radio Caroline vessel MV Ross Revengemarker drifted onto the Sands in November 1991, effectively ending the era of offshore pirate radio in Britain.

Both ships named SS Mahratta ran aground on the Sands; one in 1909 and the other in 1939.

The passenger ship SS Chusan collided with the freighter Prospector near the Sands in June 1953, severely damaging and nearly sinking her.

Lady Lovibond

The wreck of the Lady Luvibond is another persistent Goodwin Sands ghost story. During the evening of February 13 1748, the schooner Lady Luvibond, loaded with a general cargo for Oporto, and under the command of Captain Simon Reed, sailed down the Thames to safely clear the North Foreland. Captain Reed was particularly happy on this trip, for he had his new wife aboard along with her mother and their wedding guests. On deck, however, while the guests were drinking toasts to the newly married couple in the captain’s cabin below, first mate John Rivers, who had been a rival for the affections of Simon Reed’s wife, nursed his hatred and jealousy.

A fair wind blew that night and the Lady Luvibond sped across the water. But, as he stood in the wind, something must have snapped in John Rivers’ mind. He walked casually aft and drew a heavy wooden belaying-pin from a rack. Deliberately he strolled towards the helmsman and, pretending to peer over the man’s shoulder at the binnacle, Rivers shattered the poor sailor’s skull with the belaying-pin. Rolling the lifeless body into the scupper, Rivers took the helm and swung the Lady Luvibond hard over.

In the captain’s cabin the bridal party still made merry, too preoccupied to notice that ship’s change of course, until, with a grinding crash, the schooner hit the Goodwin Sands. The masts snapped and toppled into the sea, and the timbers rent like matchwood with earsplitting groans. Down in the cabin the captain and his guests were trapped and helpless. Above the din of the dying ship rose the hideous cacophony of Rivers revengeful laughter.

By first light on February 14 1748, the Lady Luvibond had been sucked into the Goodwin Sands for ever. At the subsequent court of enquiry John Rivers’ mother gave evidence that she ‘heard her son say he would get even with Simon Reed if it cost him his life.’ The case of the Lady Luvibond was logged as wrecked by misadventure.

Fifty years later to the day, Captain James Westlake, aboard the coasting vessel Edenbridge, was skirting the edge of the Goodwin Sands when he caught sight of the three-masted schooner bear down on his with sails set. Shouting at the helmsman to slam the Edenbridge’s wheel hard over, Westlake watched the other craft sheer past. As it did so, Westlake heard the sound of female voices and merrymaking coming up from the ship’s lower deck.

Reporting the incident to his ship’s owners, Westlake discovered that the crew of a fishing vessel had seen the same schooner go ashore on the Goodwins, to break up before their eyes. Making to rescue any survivors, the crew of the fishing vessel found nothing but empty sand and water. The Lady Luvibond had made her first phantom appearance.

On February 13 1848, Deal hovellers watched the spectral Lady Luvibond go aground once again. They too set out to the rescue but found nothing. Again on February 13 1898, shore watchers saw the Lady Luvibond re-enact her pile-up on the Goodwin Sands. They launched off, but found no trace of the wreck.

Other ships at sea have seen the Lady Luvibond go aground, and during early January 1948, the 2327 ton Italian vessel Silvia Onorato was wrecked on the Goodwins. Some said that thus time the Lady Luvibond had demanded a live sacrifice for her anniversary.

Consistently, the locals point out, every 50 years, on the exact anniversary of her doom, the phantom Lady Luvibond has re-enacted the consequences of a madman’s deed of violence.

Literary references

William Shakespeare mentions them in The Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Scene 1:
Why, yet it lives there uncheck'd that Antonio hath
a ship of rich lading wrecked on the narrow seas;
the Goodwins, I think they call the place; a very
dangerous flat and fatal, where the carcasses of many
a tall ship lie buried, as they say, if my gossip
Report be an honest woman of her word.


Herman Melville mentions them in Moby-Dick, Chapter VII, The Chapel:
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included; why it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no tales, though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands...


R. M. Ballantyne, the noted Scottish writer of adventure stories, published The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands in 1870.

W. H. Auden quotes the phrase "to set up shop on Goodwin Sands" in his poem In Sickness and in Health. This is a proverbial expression meaning to be shipwrecked.

G. K. Chesterton's poem The Rolling English Road refers to "the night we went to Glastonburymarker by way of Goodwin Sands."

Ian Fleming refers to the Goodwin Sands in Moonraker, one of the James Bond novels, as well as making them a major plot point in his children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

See also



References

  1. R. L. Cloet, "Hydrographic Analysis of the Goodwin Sands and the Brake Bank", The Geographical Journal, 120.2 (June 1954:203-215). Cloet demolished the story that the Goodwin Sands had been a low-lying island, identifying their hydrofoil shape formed by currents, and charting their anti-clockwise drift.
  2. Lyell, Principles of Geology, (London, I830), vol. I, ch. xx "Encroachments of the Sea" p 276.
  3. Gattie, Memorials of the Goodwin Sands (London, 1904) noted by Cloet 1954:204 and note 1
  4. "Gattie, quoting some 'early writers', suggests that the Goodwins are the 'Infera Insula' they mention". (Cloet 1954).
  5. Another theory is that the sands' name came from Anglo-Saxon gōd wine = "good friend", an ironic name given by sailors.
  6. snippet Edwin Guest, Origines Celticae (a Fragment) and Other Contributions to the History of Britain 1883:530.
  7. Charles G. Harper, The Kentish Coast 1914:231.
  8. See Strait of Dover#Geological formation.
  9. From the Autobiography of Phineas Pett.
  10. C. Merton Babcock, The Language of Melville's "Isolatoes", Western Folklore, Vol. 10, No. 4. (Oct., 1951), pp. 285-289 [1]; W. Carew Hazlitt, English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases, London, 1869, p. 430.


Further reading

  • Richard Larn and Bridget Larn - Shipwrecks of the Goodwin Sands (Meresborough Books, 1995) ISBN 0-948193-84-0


  • Steve Conway - Shiprocked - Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline (Liberties Press, Dublin, 2009) ISBN 978-1-905483-62-4 (author gives his account of running aground on the Goodwin Sands and helicopter rescue)


  • Raymond Lamont Brown - 'Phantom’s of the Sea' (Taplinger Publishing Company, NY 1972) ISBN 0-8008-5556-6


External links




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