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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Warrior emerges from island shipwreck
Samson, Isles of Scilly
HMS Colossus broke up off the island of Samson
A unique wooden statue of a warrior has been found close to a 200-year-old shipwreck off the Isles of Scilly.

Nothing of similar size and age has ever been reclaimed from British waters.

The statue - still on the sea bed - was close to a previously undiscovered section of HMS Colossus, which ran aground among the islands off Cornwall in 1798.

In 1984, the wreck was taken off the government's list of protected sites, because it was believed that nothing of value remained among the broken timbers.

Martin Dean, head of the government's Architectural Diving Unit, has declared the find "absolutely stunning" after going down to see it for himself.

The warrior was discovered in May this year, when island carpenter Todd Stevens was diving the wreck with a friend, Carmen Mallon, who works for the islands' council.

Shifting sands

She saw an arm sticking out from the sand, which turned out to belong to an astonishingly well-preserved wooden statue of a warrior, about five feet in height and with clearly defined features.

Two years ago Mr Stevens went down and found timber decking and a gun carriage, bearing the name Colossus.

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Shifting sands off the uninhabited island of Samson had revealed an unexplored section of the stern.

A row of cannon has since been discovered protruding from the sand.

An excavation in the 1970s had already yielded treasures lost by Sir William Hamilton, the husband of Lord Nelson's mistress, Emma.

Thousands of shards of Etruscan vases were brought to the surface, some of which were reconstructed and now stand in the British Museum.

Diving ban

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is expected to re-designate the Colossus as a protected wreck within days.

Divers will be banned from exploring it.

Richard Larn, curator of the Charlestown Shipwreck Museum in Cornwall, said it was extraordinary that the carving had survived.

Martin Dean
Archaeologist Martin Dean said the warrior was "stunning".
He said: "No such carving has ever been found in UK waters.

"The biggest we've seen up to now is about the size of a saucer.

"Scilly is the last place you would expect this to survive, because of the shallow water and the heavy storms."

He said that shifting sands could alter the depth of the sea bed by several feet in a night.

"Once exposed, it would not have lasted long. It's extraordinary it was found so soon," he added.

Hell Bay

The ship broke up on Southward Well Reef, a quarter of a mile off Samson.

It lay not far from the notorious Hell Bay, graveyard of many vessels.

Scilly is the last place you would expect this to survive. They get force 12s through there like you've never seen

Richard Larn - wreck historian

Her anchors had dragged as she tried to ride out a storm, and she was driven ashore.

The warrior has been preserved by its covering of sand.

The world must wait to see pictures of the statue. It has been covered in polythene, weighted down with sandbags.

Salvors from the Archaeological Diving Unit will not attempt to raise it until August, when the seas are at their calmest.

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