Mysterious 40-foot Latvian Shipwreck Unearthed On the Beach Near Riga

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Mysterious 40-foot Latvian Shipwreck Unearthed On the Beach Near Riga

A 40-foot-long (12-meter-long) Latvian shipwreck has been found on a beach near the country’s capital, Riga. Might this be the ghostly remains of a lo

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A 40-foot-long (12-meter-long) Latvian shipwreck has been found on a beach near the country’s capital, Riga. Might this be the ghostly remains of a lost British Royal Navy warship? Or perhaps, it’s a long-distance tropics trading ship?

The oak planks of the Latvian shipwreck were found on Daugavgrīva beach on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava on the edge of Latvia’s capital city, Riga. While the identity of the ship is currently unknown, the presence of copper nails in her hull suggests it was a 19th-century British Royal Navy warship.

The remains of the oak timber Latvian shipwreck found near Riga is it emerged from the beach where it was discovered. ( Rigas Brivosta )

The Oak Plank Latvian Shipwreck And Its Copper Nails

The 40-foot-long (12-meter-long) oak plank Latvian shipwreck and its copper nails was discovered beneath a massive 36 foot (11 meter) by 13 foot (4 meter) blanket of sand. According to a report on Latvian Public Broadcasting , Latvian heritage officials have estimated the ship to be between 150 and 200 years old. Investigators told Latvian media that oak timber planks, and copper nails, were shipbuilding materials used by the British Navy for both war-crafts and long-distance merchant vessels until the mid-1800s.

A spokesperson for Latvia’s National Cultural Heritage Board said the copper nails indicate that the ship was at one time “clad with copper plates.” These copper plates protected the oak against the corrosive action of sea salt, mollusks and shipworms. The former existence of this extra layer of metallic protection, indicates the ship was either a warship or a long-distance merchant ship. Not only was she suited for sailing in the Baltic and North Seas, but her strength would have enabled her to voyage as far as “the tropics,” the spokesperson said.

In conclusion, Daily Mail reports that the researchers are leaning towards it having been a “Royal Navy warship lost on patrol in the Baltics.”

A closeup of the oak planks of the ship’s hull, which was at one time clad in copper sheets. (Rigas Brivosta)

A closeup of the oak planks of the ship’s hull, which was at one time clad in copper sheets. ( Rigas Brivosta )

An Artifact From The War On Nature

One of the archaeologists said that after the group of locals found the long oak timber planks they only expected to find “a small wooden ship fragment.” But nothing could be further from the truth, as the massive ship’s hull emerged from the sand. The Daily Mail article says that English oak was commonly used in British shipbuilding at the time. A study by Western Oregon University in 2012 revealed that by late eighteenth century “the Royal Navy demanded 50,000 loads of oak per year.”

Every “ship-of-the-line” required about 4,000 mature oaks for construction. The Western Oregon University paper explained that Britain’s annual demand at this time meant that the “218,000 loads of timber used throughout the UK each year” were supplemented with 1,000 loads of “long, straight masts imported from the Baltic.” All ancient wars, it seems, had a similar catastrophic depleting effect on the world’s forests.

A closeup of the ship’s oak hull and the copper nails that once served to attach copper plates to the hull. (Rigas Brivosta)

A closeup of the ship’s oak hull and the copper nails that once served to attach copper plates to the hull. ( Rigas Brivosta )

Buried Beneath A Blanket Of Protective Sand

From the very second the “massive” blanket of sand was removed from the ship’s hull it started to rapidly degrade, having been exposed to oxygen. Archaeologist Janis Meinerts told Daily Mail that the discovery of such a large fragment of shipwreck “is a rare event.” Thus, preserving the ship for future generations and exhibiting to the public now is “a difficult task,” fraught with complications and variables.

Because the wreck has recently been designated as a “newly-discovered cultural monument,” this means it will receive significant funding. This means ground-penetrating radar will soon be deployed on the beach to reveal all of the ship’s remains.

Archaeologist Meinerts said that perhaps the very worst thing would be to move the ship “recklessly.” Hence, it has been reburied until a full excavation, restoration and preservation plan has been signed off on, which should happen in the not-too-distant future.

Top image: An aerial view of the Latvian shipwreck as it was found in deep beach sand near the country’s capital, Riga.  Source: Rigas Brivosta

By Ashley Cowie

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