THE SEARCH FOR HMS WHITING (2010)
Padstow Harbour, Cornwall
On the 15th September 1816, the 12 gun Baltimore pilot schooner HMS Whiting set a course to enter Padstow harbour with Lieutenant Jackson R.N in command. In bad weather and without a pilot on board she ran into the infamous Doom Bar that guards the entrance to the harbour. All attempts to refloat the ship failed and she was abandoned as a wreck, later to be covered by the deep sands of the Bar. This is the story of the American schooner Arrow that was captured by the Royal Navy and became HMS Whiting, her sinking, and the joint USA-UK project set up to search for the remains of the ship
The project was the inspiration of Michael P. Higgins, Camden County (Georgia) War of 1812 Historical Commission, as a way to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The project was taken up by the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) who approached ProMare for help.
Research was undertaken in the US and the UK into the history of the pilot schooner Arrow, which subsequently became HMS Whiting when she was captured by the Royal Navy in 1812. The research provided a detailed account of the fate of Whiting and some clues about her location on the Doom Bar. A search for the remains of the ship was planned usingh the research along with historical charts of the area and more information provided by the residents of Padstow in Cornwall. The geophysical survey using side scan sonar and magnetometer found six significant targets in the area with one only 25m from the estimated position of the wreck. Four of the targets were investigated by a dive team of volunteers from the Nautical Archaeology Society but for three of them, including the most promising target, all that was found was flat, bare sand as the targets were buried. The fourth and largets target was found to be a small wooden wreck approximately 18m long, but as the frames were made of pine this could not have been the Whiting. The shifting sands of the Doom Bar may once again reveal what lies under the seabed in the area of the three targets so this is not the end of this particular story.
The Whiting Project is funded by ProMare UK and the Nautical Archaeology Society and supported by Geosa Ltd., CISMAS and the Padstow Museum.