The Ore Wreck (Site 5004)
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The Ore Wreck is located 7.5nm SSE of Littlehampton in West Sussex, between the Outer Owers and Kingmere Rocks. The wreck position is 50 40.750N, 00 28.783W (Geodetic co-ordinates, WGS 84) or E 677954.12, N 5617253.31 (UTM Zone 30N, WGS 84). The wreck lies at a general depth of 10.7m (CD). Depths experienced on site ranged from 16m to 20m.
The seabed on the site consists of sand and sandy gravel, with a covering layer of dead shells.
What is left on the seabed?
The wreck is lying on even keel with a slight list to port on a fairly flat seabed. It is orientated northwest - southeast with the bow in the southeast. As the layout of the wreck is clear, the descriptions refer to port, starboard, bow and stern.
The site, including the debris field, measures 74m x 20m. The wreck itself measures 67m x 8m. From the propeller at the stern to the first cargo hold, the wreck forms a line on the seabed, but the bow section is broken off and lying at an angle to the starboard side.
In general the hull structure is heavily eroded and where present only survives to a level of one metre proud of the seabed. The most prominent feature on the site is the engine room 20m forward of the stern. Here, the two cylinder compound steam engine and the main scotch boiler are fully intact and stand 3.36 and 3m proud of the seabed respectively.
At least three cargo holds, two forward of the engine room and one aft are represented by square concreted mounds of iron ore. The aft hold or holds measure 10m by 8m and stand 2.5m proud of the seabed. No.2 hold forward of the engine room measures 6m by 9m. No.1 hold measures 8m by 8m, as does an area of debris forward of No.1 hold. The preserved part of the bow section measures 1.58m by 1.56m and stands 1.16m proud of the seabed.
Fittings and machinery originally located on the deck of the vessel, such as cargo winches and a spare propeller have collapsed and are now sitting upright on the seabed or onthe concreted cargo mounds.
While the seabed south of the wreck is fairly sterile, there is a scatter of debris along the port side of the wreck in the North.
Fittings and Machinery
Most of the ship's fittings and the machinery lie intact on the seabed. Two anchors, probably both spares, were found on site: Anchor 1 was found leaning against a debris mound forward of No.1 hold. The anchor is missing its stock. A square metal plate is bolted to one of the flukes; it is probably remains of a fastening which secured the spare anchor on deck.
The second anchor on site was found half buried beneath a steam winch (winch 1) forward of No.1 hold. The folding stock is still attached and folded in. Shank and stock length could not be determined.
Smaller in size than anchor 1, this would have been another spare anchor stowed on deck.
The anchor windlass was found upright on the seabed 6m forward of No.1 hold. It is 2.95m long and has two warping ends, each 30cm in diameter and 30cm long. Accurate measurements of the windlass were difficult to obtain due to the amount of concretion. Two heavily concreted anchor chains are still attached to the windlass.
Further aft on the wreck, three steam cargo winches were observed. The first winch (1) is situated forward of No.1 hold (view image). The second winch (2) is buried underneath iron ore cargo just to starboard of the first winch. Very little of it is exposed and it could not be recorded in detail. The third winch (3) is lying on top of a concreted cargo mound in the stern of the vessel.
The remains of the engine room form the most well preserved part of the vessel. The main single ended scotch boiler stands upright on the seabed with a slight list to port. It is 3m in diameter and 3.18m long (view image). The boiler shell is made from riveted steel or iron plates. Stay nuts and firetubes are clearly visible. A 44cm wide opening on top of the boiler marks the original position of the steam drum. A triangular arrangement of three furnace fronts was recorded on the forward face of the boiler.
The steam drum has fallen off the top of the boiler and is now leaning against the port side. It is 2.45m long and 1.15m in diameter. The inside of the drum is visible through a large hole. The original attachment opening measures 44cm in diameter and matches the opening on top of the scotch boiler.
Forward of the scotch boiler a donkey boiler has collapsed onto its side. It is 3.53m long and 1.85m in diameter. The bottom end of the boiler is still attached to a heavily eroded square base plate. On the top end the 40cm long funnel attachment is visible. The funnel was 40cm in diameter. A large hole in the side of the boiler allows the fire tubes to be seen.
The two cylinder compound steam engine is situated just aft of the main scotch boiler (image 1, image 2). The engine is very well preserved with little marine growth. It stands 3.36m proud of the seabed. The engine casing is 2.6m long and 1.27m wide. Two cylinders are visible on top of the engine. The low pressure cylinder is 1.17m in diameter. It has an 18cm wide escape valve arrangement in the centre. The high pressure cylinder measures 91cm in diameter. The escape valve arrangement is 24cm wide. A two door condenser was seen on the aft end of the engine. All engine internals such as connecting rods and crankshaft are well preserved.
Around the engine a number of features on the seabed probably relate to the engine room, but could not be identified. A possible pump was observed to starboard of the engine casing. On the port side a spindle wheel is attached to a mount.
A spare propeller and crankshaft are lying on the cargo mound aft of the engine room. The crankshaft is 3.65m long. At one end it has a flange of 55cm diameter. The diameter of the shaft is 22cm. The cast iron four bladed spare propeller is lying at an angle on the starboard side of the cargo mound.
At the stern of the vessel, the main cast iron propeller is still attached to the propeller shaft. It has the same dimensions as the spare propeller. The propeller shaft is exposed for ca. 8m before it disappears into the 1.1m wide tunnel. The shaft is 24cm in diameter. The stuffing box, intermediate shaft and two couplings are visible (view image).
The vessel sank with a cargo of copper, tin and iron ore. On the seabed, the position of individual cargo holds is marked by concreted mounds of iron ore. No copper or tin were observed during the diver and Remotely Operated Vehicle surveys.
The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office wreck index mentions evidence of earlier diver salvage . It seems likely that the valuable copper and tin ore was lifted at some point after the sinking. The less valuable iron ore seems to have been left on the seabed.
Very few small objects or artefacts were noted on the wreck site. Forward of No.3 hold on the starboard side of the vessel a metal wheel with straight spokes was found. This could have been part of cargo handling machinery or a fly wheel for a pump. A possible large block was observed on the starboard side forward of the main boiler. A smaller fly wheel with curved spokes is located between anchor windlass and No.1 hold.
What is the Ore wreck?
In 2003 the ore wreck was identified as the Belgian steamer Concha by Wessex Archaeology on the basis of geophysical data and documentary research. Basic information on vessel dimension and equipment were obtained from Lloyds Register. No further published information on the Concha was found to be available.
The Concha was a well decked steamer of 883 tons, built in 1877 by the Société Anonyme des Etablissements John Cockerill in Hoboken. She measured 64.98m x 8.32m x 5.09m and was equipped with a two cylinder compound steam engine. The Société Anonyme des Etablissements John Cockerill was the most influential Belgian industrial corporation of the time. It owned coal and iron mines, steelworks and a shipyard in Belgium, Luxemburg, Alsace-Lorraine and Spain. The Concha was built on the corporation yard in Hoboken and operated by the Cockerill Shipping line to transport ore. The Cockerill corporation was founded in 1817. The corporate shipyard started operations in 1824 in Antwerp. It was later moved to Hoboken, where it existed until 1982.
The Concha sank on 20th August 1897 after a collision with the Liverpool registered steam ship Saint Filians.
The general vessel layout of the Concha can be reconstructed from the dimensions listed in Lloyds Register. However, the information gathered during the 2005 fieldwork session allows a more accurate reconstruction of the vessel layout. The vessel outline and superstructure are based on typical designs for the period. The internal layout and the position of deck machinery are based on measurements from the geophysical data and diver observations.
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