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Latitude 50° 18.748N
Longitude 004° 13.572 W
Depth 5m
Accuracy 10m
Location Description Rame Head
Reference NMR 877239
Craft type Brig
Date built Unknown
Year of loss 1843
Manner of loss Wrecked
Outcome Abandoned
Construction Wood
Propulsion Sail
Nationality Greece
Departure port Danube
Destination port Hull
Hull length Unknown
Hull beam Unknown
Hull displacement 300 tons
Armament None
Crew 14
Built Unknown
Master Capt. Vasiopula
Owners Unknown

Taxiarchos

The Taxiarcos was a 300-ton Greek brig, a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts, carrying a cargo of bones to Hull, but a little after midnight on 27 January 1843 she ran straight into the south-west corner of Rame Head. It was reported in contemporary newspapers that the pilot that was picked up at Falmouth was below at the time of the accident and had given instructions for the vessel to be steered southeast before he left the deck. Some mistake led to the opposite occurring and with thick fog, the wind behind them and even the studding sails set the vessel hit the shore before the crew knew what was happening and ended up high and dry (2,4). No lives were lost and only one man was injured; the crew of 14 scrambled ashore and sheltered in Rame chapel overnight despite offers from the locals for proper accommodation (3).  The vessel broke up quickly where she lay.  A small portion of the vessel’s stores were saved and sold in order to pay for the crew to be taken care of in a public house until they were repatriated but the rest of the cargo was lost (3). A box containing money and valuables that was supposed to have been owned by the master of the Taxiarchos was found off the Yealm a day later. Since she was a relatively new vessel, the loss was felt to be very severe and the British pilot was heavily reprimanded in local newspapers, the Herald even suggesting that he should obtain a copy of the Remarks on the Navigation of the English Channel to be found in the local Tide Tables!

The remains of the ship were rediscovered in the summer of 1982 by local Plymouth diver and photographer, Dave Peake. While snorkelling around the rocky headland, Peake noticed an old round crown anchor though the kelp, it was  badly worn and partly buried, but unmistakably an anchor. He then spotted two more anchors lying about 5m apart in a nearby gully, both larger than the first, these anchors measured 2.5m in length and had large arrow-shaped flukes.  Peake noted that the surrounding seabed was strewn with other iron wreckage – winching gear, iron spindles and drums. He presumed that after the ship ran into the rocks, the bow settled and rotted away, thus leaving the foredeck gear and anchors.

Eleven years later, Peake returned to the site with Paul Bailey and Alan Down, both members of the Nautical Archaeology Society, to see what else could be found there.  It was then that they discovered the ships bell in among the shingle. Unfortunately, after over a century in the high energy environment off the headland the bell no longer bore the name of the vessel from which it came and a hole had been worn through on one side. However, it was determined that the bell and anchors most likely belonged to the same ship as they were so close together.  Peake started to research the wrecks on Rame Head and came to the conclusion that he had found the brig Taxiarchos (1).

A copper-alloy rudder pintle has been recovered off Rame Head (09A03) in the same area as the anchors and bell and it is suggested that this artefact also belongs to the Taxiarchos.

Diving the Taxiarchos

The site is best reached by boat but can also be reached by hiking down the hillside from Rame Head.  The anchors and iron fittings lie very close inshore at the bottom of a gully running east-west in 5m of water at low tide.  The site is very scenic, deep gullies with shingle bottoms topped with kelp are a haven for fish and crabs, and on a bright day with good visibility is a great place to take photographs.

By boat the site should be dived at high water, the seabed rises steeply to Rame Head so the boat can be brought quite close in, but an echo sounder must be used to check the depth under the keel when approaching the site.  Only dive this site in calm conditions and preferably with only gentle winds from the north, the site is completely exposed to the south and any waves or swell make diving conditions unsuitable.

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Images

Taxiarchos Anchor

Anchor A on the Taxiarchos site

Taxiarchos

A brig at sea

Taxiarchos site

The location of the Taxiarchos site on Rame Head

Finds

Rudder pintle (09A03)