A massive storm has revealed the bare timbers of a mysterious shipwreck hidden for hundreds of years beneath the sand of a British beach. Archaeologists examining the wreck now believe it may have inspired one of the world's first organized coast guards.
The wreck, which was first noticed earlier this year, is still only visible for a short time each day at low tides, Sky Tyne and Wear reports.
"When we first heard the wreck had emerged from the sands, we were up there the next day," Maritime Archaeology Trust CEO Jessica Berry said, according to the outlet. "We sat on the beach waiting for the tide to go out. At that point we did not know precisely what it was. As it appeared in front of us, it was the most incredible sight."
Located in the shadow of the historic Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, the discovery has given way to extensive testing led by MAST. Research recently revealed that the wood used to construct the boat is English and dates to the 1750s or 1760s, according to a press release.
These new details also suggest the ship may be connected to Dr. John Sharp, a famous 18th-century resident of Bamburgh Castle and founder of what local historians argue was England's first modern coast guard, the Berwick Advertiser reports. (England's National Archives puts the founding of Her Majesty's Coastguard at 1822.)
“This remarkable survival on the beach at Bamburgh is not only extremely rare in terms of the extent of the survival, but also because it could provide a direct link to the work of Dr. Sharp,” Jessica Turner, historic and built environment officer of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), told the Advertiser.
Beginning in the mid-18th century, Sharp was a trustee of the castle, a task he threw himself into with an "enlightened" enthusiasm, according to the Bamburgh Castle website. In 1781, Sharp established a coast guard system with the castle as its station in an effort to help mariners navigate the area's treacherous offshore reefs, the site notes. His patrols warned ships of the dangerous areas, fired warning shots on foggy nights, launched rescue missions and even provided shelter for shipwrecked sailors.