Another major find for Midhurst shipwreck hunter

David Mearns with his new book 'The Shipwreck Hunter' SUS-170921-125334001
David Mearns with his new book 'The Shipwreck Hunter' SUS-170921-125334001

The remains of the first British ship to be sunk in the second world war appear to have been found on the Atlantic seabed by Midhurst based shipwreck hunter David Mearns - without leaving dry land.

Using advanced remote sensing technology, David says sonar data shows the transatlantic passenger liner Athenia lying 200m down on Rockall Bank off Ireland.

The sonar picture of the SS Athenia

The sonar picture of the SS Athenia

David, director of Bluewater Recoveries on Rumbolds Hill, who has located more than 20 major wrecks over nearly 30 years, began searching for Athenia in 2006.

As a highly controversial sinking – and one which became deeply important at the Nuremburg trials – Athenia had long been on his wishlist.

After doing initial research, he turned to the Irish Government and Geological Survey who had been conducting seabed surveys in the area Athenia was reported to have sunk.

“It looked likely there were three shipwrecks in the relevant area, so I flew to Dublin to take a closer look,” said David.

Using enhanced images and information from multi-beam echo sounding, he compares images and realised one of the wrecks was the Athenia: “It was exactly the right size, and was damaged in such a way as to match the reports of how the boat was struck and sank.”

A planned project to map the world’s ocean floor by 2030 will open seafloor research using advanced technology currently available only to professionals, to anyone with the internet said David.

“I was able to locate Athenia using a database that collected information about the Irish seabed, but Seafloor 2030 means in future people will be able to explore the whole world’s seabed themselves with an unparalleled level of precision.”

The story of how David found the Athenia appears in his new book The Shipwreck Hunter.

He will be doing a short talk and book signing at One Tree Books in Petersfield on Monday (October) 16 at 6:30pm.

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