Cornwall's Shipwrecks

Cornwall's Shipwrecks

Kernow Gorhel Gwreckys


Don't get wrecked

Cornwall has been the graveyard of shipping over the centuries, it is a prime area for shipwrecks as it is close to major shipping routes. In the past the high rate of shipping; in conjunction with precarious currents, stormy weather, concealed rocky outcrops and particularly inadequate navigational aids, were the major causes of shipwrecks. It was considered a Cornishman's right to salvage any of the goods that were left on abandoned ships or that were washed ashore, which led to a considerable amount of smuggling.

Shipwrecks in Cornwall have hit the headlines over many years. There was the ill fated 'Torrey Canyon' whose load of oil decimated local marine life in 1967 after running aground on the Seven Stones reef, whilst on a lighter note, there was the recovery in 1968 of bullion from the wreck of the Association on The Isles of Scilly. Shipwrecks have not been eliminated by technology, but just reduced. There will always be a chance of wrecks with the amount of shipping around Cornwall, particularly as ships often come close into shore.

Stories abound of Cornish wreckers luring shipping onto rocks with false navigational lighting, with the survivors on reaching the shore being set upon and killed.

Such stories are erroneous and not supported by historical records. There has never been a conviction for such a crime. Whilst on the other hand there are many recorded stories of bravery by local people rescuing victims of shipwrecks.

The Doom Bar is a sandbar at the mouth of the estuary of the River Camel, where it meets the Sea on the north coast of Cornwall near Padstow. A Cornish folklore legend relates that a mermaid created the bar as a dying curse on the harbour after she was shot by a local man. The Doom Bar has accounted for more than six hundred shipwrecks since records began early in the nineteenth century.

Between 1880 and 1923 over thirty identified steamships were wrecked, stranded or sank around the Runnel Stone just south of Gwennap Head.

Known as 'General de Gaulle in his bath', the Brisons Rocks just off Cape Cornwall have caused many shipwrecks in their time. They are said to have once been home to a prison, but now are an important breeding ground for seabirds.

Cornish Lighthouses       Shipwrecks Around The Isles of Scilly       Smuggling in Cornwall

Cornwall's Beaches       Cornish Lifeboat Stations       Seven Stones Lightship