timewatch: wreckers, the

Author Bella Bathurst goes in search of the Wreckers: those who refused to help sinking ships so that they could plunder the cargo. It’s an epic journey that takes her from the Isles of Scilly to the Orkney Islands and uncovers the remarkable dark history of a national crime.

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Prompted by historical sources and literary clues, and guided by leading academics in maritime history, historian Bella Bathurst’s journey brings her face to face with the descendants of Britain’s wreckers, and uncovers the extraordinary social history of a much misunderstood profession. From Fiji to Finland, the Baltic to the Bahamas, wherever there are ships, there are shipwrecks. And wherever there are shipwrecks, there are Wreckers. Since time immemorial, coastal communities all over the globe have been profiting from the misfortunes of ship-wrecks and their unfortunate victims. But the sinister world of wreckers and wrecking has remained a hidden history, shrouded in mystery, illuminated only by extraordinary tales from fiction and folk-lore. Bella had come across pirates, privateers and pressmen, but she hadn’t heard of wreckers or been aware that there were men – and women, and children – who stood with their arms folded waiting for ships to die. Who were these malevolent spectators standing so silent on the beach? And so begins her journey, in search of the Wreckers. It is a quest which will take her on an epic journey around the British coast, to some of its remotest communities: south to the ‘ships graveyard’ beyond the Isles of Scilly; north to the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Isles; to Anglesey in the west; and to the notorious Goodwin Sands in the east. And along the way she sheds light on the dark history of the coast’s notorious, ingenious, and sometimes murderous wreckers.

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