Located on the eastern coast of Kent in the United Kingdom and on the southern approaches to the busy River Thames, the mobile Goodwin Sands have become infamous as being responsible for the loss of many ships. Indeed William Lambarde (1570) quoted a Scottish historian, Boethius, as saying that the Goodwins were ‘a most dreadful gulfe and ship swallower’.
In Richard & Bridget Larn’s excellent ‘Shipwreck Index of the British Isles’, (Vol 2, Section 6 - Goodwin Sands), he states that there are at least 680 known wrecks in the area. This amounts to 21 losses per square mile or 32 per mile of coastline. In addition to the known sites there is likely to be many more ships that were lost in the area during the night or in fog that were unrecorded by history. It is estimated that the true number of wrecks to have floundered in the last 600 years is likely to exceed 1,000.
Indeed during the dreadful night of the Great Storm of 1703 it was reported that in an area of sea between the North and South Foreland some 13 men-of-war and 40 merchant vessels were wrecked at the cost of 2,168 lives and 708 guns. Some of the more notable wrecks included:-
HMS Northumberland, launched 1679, lost with all hands, designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, licensee Robert Peacock
HMS Restoration, launched 1678, lost with all hands
HMS Stirling Castle, a 70-gun third-rate ship of the line built at Deptford in 1679, 21 crew survived. Now designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, licensee Robert Peacock
In more recent times, children of the 60’s who remember listening to the pop radio station Radio Caroline will recall that it was on the Goodwin Sand that their last pirate radio ship, the Ross Revenge, became grounded on the 20th November 1991. The crew were successfully evacuated by Sea King helicopter from RAF Manston and the ship eventually towed to the Eastern Docks at Dover.
On a more light hearted note the Goodwin Sands have been home to irregular games of cricket (at low tide)! First played in the summer of 1813, the players were accused of blasphemy against the unfortunate victims of the Sands.
In more recent times the British Hovercraft Museum Society arranged hovercraft visits to the dried banks of sand taking 400 people on an hour's visit there where they walked, cycled, motorcycled, etc. In May 1997 The SRN4 hovercraft ‘The Princess Anne’ made a trip where the games, in addition to cricket, included throwing the haggis and tossing the horseshoe, only the British.........!!