The Iron Wreck of Eagle Island

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In December 2021, the Chagos Remote Ocean Voyager Expedition
(C-Rove) discovered a shipwreck off the west coast of Eagle Island.

Bridget Buxton, Associate Professor of Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Rhode Island, shared this article about the expedition and the role Marine Magnetic’s Explorer played in the discovery.

Article summary

The Chagos Remote Ocean Voyager Expedition (C-Rove), organized by the OceanGate Foundation, aimed to investigate the theory that ancient Greek and Roman navigators traded across the central Indian Ocean via the southern monsoon route.

The search for evidence in shipwrecks targeted islands along the route, particularly the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

The large search area necessitated an unconventional approach—using rat populations as indicators of human seafaring. Genetic analysis techniques allowed the determination of the rats’ geographic origin and estimated arrival time.

In December 2021, the C-Rove team embarked on the expedition to collect rat tail samples from the archipelago’s major atolls (excluding Diego Garcia), aboard the 18-metre sailing yacht Jocara. Owned by the Potter family from Trondheim, Norway, Jocara proved to be an excellent representation of oceanography’s environmentally-friendly shift towards wind-powered seafaring.

Early results from analyzing the Chagos rats at Fordham University’s Munshi-South Lab are promising.Furthermore, an unexpected discovery made during the expedition deserves mention. In addition to rat sampling, the expedition also aimed to assess Jocara’s potential as a platform for remote maritime archaeological surveys.

To detect possible ancient shipwrecks, we conducted a magnetic survey using a Marine Magnetics Explorer magnetometer attached to a plastic kayak towed by Jocara’s dinghy. This compact, low-impact setup performed admirably, locating a shipwreck off Eagle Island in its initial test.

Credit must be given to Catholic Friar Roger Dussercle, whose memoirs hinted at the possibility of shipwreck artifacts near Eagle Island. His records, along with a shipwreck list from Nigel Wenban-Smith’s 2016 book, “Chagos: A History,” informed our search locations. The magnetometer detected wreckage seemingly from a large turn-of-the-century iron-hulled vessel covering an area of 50-60 square meters.

Original article by

Bridget Buxton (University of Rhode Island), Caroline Durville, Gary Philbrick, John and Casper Potter (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

Posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2023.

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