Incredibly well-preserved Hull ship which sank in 1852 found in the Baltic

The incredible story of a Victorian ship from Hull which disappeared in the Baltic more than 160 years ago has only now been revealed.

Finnish diver Jerry Wilhelmsson four years ago discovered a shipwreck in shallow water in a nature reserve off the Aland Islands.

It turned out to be an amazing time capsule, standing upright and largely intact, with some of its load still on board - bottles of ginger beer from Hull, others possibly of wine, Davenport crockery. The ship's figurehead of a woman, with what remained of its gold plating, was also found on the seabed.

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A huge amount of detective work followed the discovery of "the Bottle Wreck" off the islands between Stockholm and Helsinki.

Divers discovered ginger beer bottles from Hull on the wreck Picture: Magnus Melin-BUE

But it is only now that the final piece of the jigsaw has been put in place and its identity has been confirmed as a merchant ship from Hull, which disappeared en route for St Petersburg, with its Captain and crew 168 years ago.

Scouring the archives, researchers in Finland discovered that in late 1852, a transom - the flat surface forming the stern of a boat - had been washed up. It bore the name Luke C Taylor, the Captain of the Hull brig Regard.

The director of the Åland Maritime Museum and former Hull student Hanna Hagmark put the researchers in touch with Dr Robb Robinson, from the University of Hull’s Blaydes Maritime Centre.

He has now sent the divers measurements and descriptions matching those of the vessel they found, as well as details of Captain Taylor’s life - who ironically lived a stone’s throw from Hull History Centre, where the old shipping register is kept.

Measurements and descriptions matching with those of the vessel found on the seabed were discovered in a shipping register in Hull Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 62-year-old widower sailed from London on October 4 1852, with a crew of around eight men, carrying raw sugar, rough iron, rice and other goods, and arrived in Elsinore in northern Denmark.

The ship entered the Sound on October 17 and was last seen off the Swedish island of Öland heading eastwards. Then no more was heard.

Dr Robinson said: “Captain Taylor was making the voyage very late in the year, but he was a very experienced seafarer.

"He had made lots of voyages to St Petersburg - it was his speciality.

The wreck with Hull skipper Luke Taylor and crew came to grief in 1852 Picture: Magnus Melin-BUE

“Hull has traded with the Baltic since the Medieval period - famously oak coffins dug up when the Augustinian friary was excavated were of Baltic oak from the early 1300s.

“This is a fascinating piece of our maritime history bought to life by the discovery of this incredibly well preserved shipwreck and some excellent international research.

“In 1853 his daughter married a Captain Hunter - it would be intriguing to know if any of his descendants are still in the area.”

Why was the wreck so well preserved?

Davenport crockery were among the items found Picture: Magnus Melin-BUE

Wooden wrecks in the Baltic are far better preserved than those in the North Sea because of the unique conditions there.

The shipworm - teredo navalis - cannot live in the brackish water so the wood can be preserved for hundreds of years.

Those who found her say Regard was particularly well preserved - possibly because nearby small islands protected the site from waves and currents.

Identifying the wreck has been a team effort: first by Baltic Underwater Explorers (BUE), a dive team consisting of Jerry Wilhelmsson, Conny Alexandersson and Jan Lönnqvist and photographer Magnus Melin.

Samuli Haataja and Ilkka Järvinen from diving team Nautic Club, Turku found a possible candidate ID in the archives.

In the UK, Peter Chapman was of crucial help in determining the Captain's family history. He is a member of the East Yorkshire Family History Society.

Jerry Vilhelmsson found the shipwreck in 2016 Picture: Magnus Melin-BUE
Hull has been trading with the Baltic since Medieval times Picture: Tony Johnson