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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Wreck carving 'amazes' divers
HMS Colossus cannon
Cannon from HMS Colossus were found on the sea bed
Divers excavating a wooden statue from the seabed have discovered it is a fragment of one of Lord Nelson's ships.

They have stripped away sand to discover that the carving is actually three point nine metres high - much taller than the five feet originally thought.

It makes it many times larger than any other wooden carving found in British waters.

Amateur divers who found it in the Isles of Scilly thought it was a statue of a warrior.

They are classing it as the best carving in British waters

Carmen Mallon
But it turned out to be part of the stern of HMS Colossus, which hit a reef off Samson island on the way home from the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Colossus was excavated in the 1960s, when thousands of shards of Etruscan pottery were recovered.

Last year, amateur diver Todd Stevens found an undiscovered section of the wreck half a mile from the excavated remains. Several 32lb cannon were found.

Protection order

Then Carmen Mallon, who works for the islands council, dived on the wreck with Mr Stevens and spotted what appeared to be a hand emerging from the sand.

The find led to the government's Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) placing a protection order on the wreck, preventing all divers from going near it.

Mrs Mallon told BBC News Online: "I didn't have a clue what it was, but Todd knew and was amazed."

Hell Bay
Scilly's rocks and reefs were a notorious ships' graveyard
They started to push sand away to reveal more of what appeared to be a statue.

"We got very excited, but we started to run out of air and frantically had to cover it up.

"We came up totally happy and as soon as we could we got to land and called the ADU.

"Now they are classing it as the best find of a carving in British waters."

Race against time

The ADU had expected to bring the "statue" to the surface for preservation.

Mrs Mallon said: "They brought a holding tank and were hoping to keep it on the islands.

"But they have been taken by surprise by the size of it.

"Their time and funding is running out and they could have to cover it with sandbags and protective film and leave it down there until next year."

Colossus went aground on a reef off Samson while bringing home 200 sick and injured seamen from the Battle of the Nile.

The ship was laden with Etruscan vases collected by Lord Hamilton, whose wife, Emma, was Lord Nelson's mistress.

Salvage rights have been granted to Mac Mace, a commercial diver on the islands, although the pottery has already been retrieved.

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Wartime shipwrecks are surveyed
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