Norfolk's submerged treasures exposed by weather
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
She has lain submerged in her sandy Norfolk sarcophagus for more than 100 years. Occasionally enough sand has been scoured away to enable a brief peep at the surroundings before she disappears again.
But now, thanks to a coincidental collision of unusual weather conditions, the wreck of the Ispolen has given Sheringham beach visitors something new to explore.
Lost under the town’s sand since 1897, she was driven ashore following a storm. Carrying a cargo of ice, the boat had left Norway on January 19 bound for Gravesend. But after she got into difficulties the private lifeboat Henry Ramey Upcher — led by coxswain Tom Barnes Cooper — was launched. All eight people on the Ispolen were brought back to safety.
Coastal engineer and resident Brian Farrow said this was the clearest view of the Ispolen’s remains in 10 years.
“Traditionally in the winter-time beaches are eroded and get much lower because of the prevailing weather conditions — basically rough seas,” he explained. “Beaches move by weather patterns and this year they have gone lower than they have in many years. This is because during the last spring tides there was an easterly swell which made a scouring tide known as ‘wind over wave’.”
This means the waves from the North Sea, which move towards Great Yarmouth, have been affected by an easterly thrust so that the wind pushes the waves in the opposite direction to the water.
Mr Farrow added that over the next few months the sand would be pushed landwards again and by the end of March, the Ispolen remains would vanish for another year.
Local historian Peter Cox is the co-author of a book called The Wreck of Ispolen and has lived in Sheringham for 40 years.
He and Tim Groves discovered the famous rescue of the crew when researching the history of the Henry Ramey Upcher lifeboat.
Mr Cox hoped that weather conditions would keep the brig preserved for at least another 200 years. “It’s been there since 1897 and no one will move it as it’s embedded into the chalk,” he said. “Visitors to the town see the plaque on the promenade but if they could come back during winter then they would see how enthralling it is.”
He emphasised that it had been one of the biggest sea rescues in Sheringham’s history and reached national importance after wealthy families from London collected donations for the lifeboat crew – a total of £40 which was shared between them. This was the equivalent to one year’s earnings for a fisherman at the time.
Irene Saunders, of Kettering, has been holidaying in Sheringham for 20 years and said this year had been the first time she had seen the remains. “I feel quite fortunate to have been able to get so close to it. It’s in really good condition but I think it should be owned by heritage to ensure it is looked after as it would be a shame if it became damaged.”
Other locations revealed by this year’s low sand level includes Cromer’s old jetty next to the pier and chalk exposure near Sheringham’s lifeboat museum.