Living beside the sea means you have a long-term relationship with a wild, wonderful and mysterious entity.
You can never be sure what she will do next. It’s important to remember that you can never trust her. You must expect surprises, the occasional wet foot and salt-misted glasses. I grew up with more of a fear of the open water than a love for it. Despite the obvious stereotype being Cornish doesn’t mean that you are born with gills and a surfboard under your arm.
I do love her now though but I treat her with a respect I feel she deserves.
The Power of the Sea
There is something restorative about being near the water. The Victorians agreed. They thought that the sea air and salt water was the cure for just about every ill. In the 19th century Penzance became the destination of choice of the discerning invalid. Consequently the town has a very large graveyard . . .
There is some truth in the idea that the sea heals however. I often find myself drawn to the seashore whether it is for a walk, hide in the car on a rough day and watch the waves pound in or just to sit in the sand and read. But you should always expect the unexpected and watch out for that rogue wave. Those ones that leap up and soak you on an apparently calm day.
A Graveyard for Ships
The coast of Cornwall is a shipping graveyard, literally thousands of vessels have come to grief on these shores. Their remains lie on the seabed out of sight for everyone apart from the seals and the odd diver. And believe me, I am not getting in a wetsuit, let alone going under water!
For us land lubbers, however there has magically appeared a handy land based alternative. Recent rough seas have revealed the remains of a ship that some believe to be the Jeune Hortense, a French ship that got into trouble in Mount’s Bay in May 1888.
She ran aground while trying to return to Cornwall the body of a Fowey man, Tom Hall, a telegraph clerk, who had died of consumption in France. The four crew were rescued but the ship could not be saved. She slowly broke up and disappeared beneath the sands, or so the story goes . . . That is until her recent reappearance.
Visiting the Wreck
The remains have been revealed to the south of the horseshoe-shaped bay and lie in the sand like the skeletal remains of some ancient mythical beast.
It is a magical and rather disquieting quality that the sea possesses that allows it to make whole beaches come and go at will, often overnight ( just ask Porthleven) tons of sand will vanish. So really it was nothing to make a wooden wreck appear to rise from the sandy seabed in January.
This wreck does fascinate me however. The wood is smooth as silk and hard as iron. The whole scene is somehow sad and yet majestic too. The remains lie along way from the usual tourist trail across the bay to the famous mount, so you feel, and usually are, alone.
Our mistress the sea gives us so many gifts, not just the pleasures of using her waters and the larder of creatures that have been Cornwall’s saviour and mainstay throughout history but actual presents. Treasures from the deep so to speak.
But more of that another time and please bear in mind one woman’s treasure is most certainly another’s junk! But if you do want to visit the wreck use my photos above as a guide and she will appear from the sand.
The Wrong Ship?
There is some doubt as to the true identity of this wreck, the Jeune Hortense is thought to have been refloated before she was eventually broken up so it may be that this is not her at all despite the numerous newspaper reports stating that it is . . . Another ship, the Petrellen did run ashore in the same place in 1885 so it could be her perhaps! Find out more HERE.