A mysterious 40-foot shipwreck found on a Latvian beach dates back 200 years and could be the remains of a lost Royal Navy warship, according to experts.
Locals in Latvia discovered the exposed beams of the wreck on Daugavgrīva beach, which is just a few kilometers from the capital Riga.
However, the true extent of the discovery remained hidden until the excavators arrived, when a section of the wreckage was revealed 39 feet long and 13 feet wide.
While the ship’s origins have yet to be traced, there is evidence that the hull was once covered in copper — a technology first developed by the Royal Navy.
The age of the ship is also unknown, but it is made of oak, a popular shipbuilding material in Britain until the mid-19th century, leading Latvian heritage leaders to suggest it could be between 150 and 200 years old.
A mysterious 40-foot shipwreck found on a Latvian beach dates back 200 years and could be the remains of a lost Royal Navy warship, according to experts
To discover the remarkable remains of the mysterious oak and copper ship, excavators had to remove a huge 36-by-13-foot blanket of sand
However, the true extent of the discovery remained hidden until the excavators arrived, when a section of the wreckage was revealed measuring 39 feet long and 13 feet wide.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE MYSTERY SHIP?
Very little is known about the origin of the ship found in Latvia.
The wood is made from oak, which was a popular shipbuilding material in the British Isles until the mid-19th century.
It also had copper nails, which were used to fasten copper plates to the underwater part to protect the wood.
This was also a common practice in the British shipbuilding industry, especially for long-range warships and merchant ships.
The beams they found were 40 feet long, but they can’t say how long the boat itself was, or what type of craft.
With the available evidence, the team suspects it is between 150 and 200 years old and was likely a Royal Navy warship on patrol in the Baltics.
A spokesman for the Latvian National Council for Cultural Heritage said there are thousands of small copper nails on the outside of the wood.
This indicates that the ship was clad in copper plates, suggesting that it was a warship or a long-distance merchant ship that made very long voyages.
“It probably sailed not only through the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, but also on further voyages to the tropics,” explains the spokesperson.
‘The silver plating of underwater parts of ships started in the late 18th century by the British, so this wreck probably dates from the 19th century.’
In a statement, one of the excavators — part of a team from Riga’s Freeport — said they had expected to find only a “small wooden ship fragment.”
“But the further we dug,” she added, “the clearer it became — the find is considerably larger than we could have predicted.”
Oak was a common material in British shipbuilding at the time, and a 2012 Western Oregon University study found that by the late 1800s, the Royal Navy was demanding 50,000 shipments of oak per year.
This was a significant proportion of the total 218,000 loads used in the UK each year, with over 1,000 ‘tall, straight masts’ imported from the Baltic, as the house wood was not long or straight enough for the job.
At the same time, a single ship of the line required the wood of about 4,000 mature oak trees for construction.
Locals in Latvia discovered the exposed beams of the wreck on Daugavgrīva beach, which is just a few kilometers from the capital Riga
To discover the remarkable remains of the mysterious oak and copper ship, excavators had to remove a huge 36-by-13-foot blanket of sand.
“We realized that wasn’t all—probably he’s sleeping under the sand, maybe even an entire ship,” the backhoe said.
The copper plates, which provided protection against shipworms and the corrosive effects of salt water, have long been removed, but images of the remains show that the wooden beams are ‘remarkably well preserved’.
A spokesman for the Latvian National Council of Cultural Heritage said there are thousands of small copper nails on the outside of the wood
This indicates that the ship was clad in copper plates, suggesting that it was a warship or a long-distance merchant ship that made very long voyages
To ensure the preservation of the wreck, it has now been reburied, pending a decision on its future.
Archaeologist Janis Meinerts explains: ‘Finding such a large fragment of a shipwreck on the coast is a rare event and it is a difficult task to preserve and exhibit it for future generations. The worst would be to do it recklessly.’
The wreck has now been designated as a newly discovered cultural monument, enabling further investigation into its origin. It will also soon be explored with ground-penetrating radar, revealing its true scale.
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS IN THE 19TH CENTURY COME IN SIX PRIZES
The British Royal Navy was a global fighting force in the 18th and 19th centuries, with six ratings of warships navigating the oceans.
During this time, the Navy was also a major consumer of timers, demanding more than 50,000 lots from around the world, much of the total of 210,000 lots requested for the country as a whole.
According to the Maritime Museum, a ship’s ‘speed’ was determined by the number of guns it had on board.
The largest, or First Rate, had 120 guns, and the smallest, or Sixth Rate, carried only 20 guns as it circumnavigated the globe.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy was the largest naval fighting force in the world, in terms of tactics, training, organization, hygiene, logistical support and warship design.
For a period of 100 years, between 1815 and 1914, the Royal Navy faced little opposition, in part because of its overwhelming dominance.
Halfway through this period, shipbuilding changed drastically, from oak frames to metal fleets.
This led to a complete overhaul of the Royal Navy’s war fleet, and yet, thanks to British leadership in the industrial revolution, the navy remained dominant.