London, August 27 : An astounding number of seven shipwrecks, up to 350 years old, has been discovered by divers, at the bottom of the Thames River in London, UK.
According to a report in the Evening Standard, the discovered ships include a warship that was blown up in 1665, a yacht converted to a Second World War gunboat, and a mystery wreck in which divers found a personalised gin bottle.
The vessels, in the Thames Estuary, are just some of about 1,100 ships, which went down in the whole of the river. The salvage by Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority, which regulates the river, was both historical and practical.
Jagged metal from the wrecks, which stick out of the mud, silt, and gravel act as a 'can-opener' that can split apart vessels, especially large container ships which can skim within half a metre of the riverbed.
The operation was filmed for the BBC and took four months, using a dozen divers who used 3D survey equipment to locate the wrecks in near-zero visibility.
"This is the first time it's been done on this scale on the Thames, clearing to such depths - down to 16 metres - to get at ships this big," according to Frank Pope, the marine archaeologist who led the research.
HMS London, the oldest wreck, was found near Southend.
It was collected by Charles II from Sweden during the Restoration. The 90-cannon warship was blown up accidentally in peacetime in 1665, just a year after its launch, killing 300 people.
Another important find was the Dovenby, a 70-metre, three-masted steel cargo ship carrying guano for fertiliser from Peru to Antwerp. It sank in 1914 after crashing into steamship Sindoro in fog, north of the Isle of Sheppey.
Other disocveries included the HMS Aisha, a yacht requisitioned to become part of "Dad's Navy" in the Second World War. It hit a mine north of the Isle of Sheppey in October 1940.
Finds from the various ships included cups, plates, well preserved leather shoes, bricks, the rare steel sailing mast of the Dovenby and a deck beam from the Aisha.
According to Richard Everitt, chief executive of the Port of London Authority, "This is the largest operation of its kind since submarine defences were removed at the end of the Second World War."
"We co-ordinated the whole process because we felt it was right we should get a long-term record of the history of Britain's second-largest port, and this very important part of the country's economy," he added.