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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Roebuck artefacts 'significant'
Geoffrey Fairhurst with his wife
HMS Roebuck sank off Ascension Island in 1701
Marine archaeologists have been working to preserve "historically significant" artefacts retrieved from the wreck of a 300-year-old ship.

The finds aboard HMS Roebuck include a bronze Royal Navy bell.

The ship was sailed by William Dampier, who explored Australia 80 years before the celebrated voyages of Captain James Cook.

Dampier, who died in 1715, was described as a "famous explorer, navigator and buccaneer".

We are very excited to be working with such significant relics

Dr Mark Jones, Mary Rose Archaeological Services

Scientists from Portsmouth's Mary Rose Archaeological Services said they have also retrieved a giant clamshell, thought to have been collected by Dampier.

The Roebuck sank off Ascension Island in 1701.

The team was commissioned to do the work, in March this year, by the administrator of Ascension Island, Geoffrey Fairhurst.

'Magnificent specimen'

The findings mean that Dampier's voyage on HMS Roebuck, during which he landed on Shark's Bay in 1699, can now be retrospectively mapped.

Dampier also piloted the ship via several islands in the East Indies, in the year before it sank.

Dr Mark Jones, conservation director for the services, said although the bell was badly corroded, the team has managed to stabilise it.

"The clamshell is also a magnificent specimen and originates from the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

"We are very excited to be working with such significant relics."

Dampier's influence in the region where the ship sank was marked by the naming of an archipelago, off the coast of Australia, after him.

Discussions are now underway about where the artefacts can be placed once they are fully restored.

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