Archaeology ORCA

The Utrecht Wreck: Second Cannon Found

The Third Phase of The Utrecht Community Marine Archaeology Project offers an opportunity to get involved in archive research on this intriguing shipwreck.

The crystal clear waters around Orkney hide many wrecks and one of the most intriguing is the wreck of The Utrecht which lies off the island of Sanday.

Built in Rotterdam as The Irene by Glavimans, The Utrecht was a 38-gun frigate that was owned by the Dutch Navy. Several sources (Canmore; Ferguson, 1988; Larn and Larn, 1998; Whittaker, 1998) offer contradictory information regarding the number of cannon on the vessel with numbers ranging from 32 to 44. The first phase of the project can confirm she had 38 cannon comprising twenty-six 12-pounders, four 6-pounders and eight 20pounder carronades.

One of the 12 pounder iron cannons from The Utrecht’s gun deck was discovered earlier this summer in the second phase of this community led archaeology project.

Diving is progressing on the third phase of the project and, following further site investigation, a second cannon was  discovered two weeks ago. Initial investigation confirmed that the find was in fact a 12 pounder iron cannon which most likely originated from the wreck of The Utrecht.

This phase of the project aims to initially record the site extent and condition, building on earlier phases of work undertaken by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving and offer a platform for community engagement through volunteer programs, displays, talks and online outreach, utilising such mediums as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube.

image14144The third phase also involves desk research in which the community also have an opportunity to be involved. This will include examining surviving written sources from the late 18th and early 19th Century, The Utrecht’s log book and other sources in order to establish the full story of life on the frigate and fill in the details of the final hours.

If you are interested in being involved with this aspect of the project then please contact Sandra Henry (ORCA Marine Archaeologist and Lecturer) at

This community project also aims to involve the local diving community through the delivery of training programs such as the Nautical Archaeology Society courses. The project is led by Sandra Henry of ORCA and Kevin Heath of Sula Diving and is supported by Orkney Islands Council.

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