'Like a First Kiss': Danish divers find warship from 1780 after decade-long hunt

  14 November 2018    Read: 976

The 52-metre, 70-cannon Printz Friederich and its crew of 667 sank during a storm on September 30, 1780. This was one of the worst catastrophes in Danish naval history, as one-fifth of its firepower was lost in one go.

After searching for a decade using old maritime maps and high-tech equipment, Danish divers have succeeded in locating the long-lost wreck of the Printz Friedrich, a Danish warship that sank in the Kattegat straight 238 years ago, Danish TV2 reported.

To accomplish this feat, Undervandsgruppen, a team of divers led by Kim Schmidt, had sailed 2,500 nautical miles and searched over 104 square kilometres of seabed, making over 200 dives in vain, often in difficult conditions.

An elated Schmidt compared his feeling of joy to new love. "Just like when you meet a girl and get the first kiss," he told TV2.

The diving team also found a lot of items in the wreckage that could shed more light on the conditions aboard the historic ship, as well as its tragic fate. The finds include everything from musket balls to brass rapier butts and a lead plate emblazoned with the royal crown of Denmark.

"These items aren't that amazing as such, but the find of the ship-of-the-line is unique. It was a massive disaster for the Danish Navy. When the Printz Friederich sank in 1780, a fifth of the navy's capacity was lost," Simon Kyhn-Madsen of the Læsø Museum told TV2. Denmark's naval leadership went to great pains to conceal the loss, so that foreign naval powers with which the kingdom had a strained relationship, such as England, wouldn't catch wind of it.

According to Schmidt, the captain had become ill and the first mate was in charge when the ship was caught in a storm and blown completely off course, running aground and sinking fast. Amazingly for that era, only half a dozen sailors perished; the rest were rescued using the ship's own life boats and vessels from a nearby island.

While a disaster for the Danish Navy, the shipwreck also prompted a demographic boost for the island, as many of the rescued sailors were provided lodging with single women; these doubly-lucky seamen had many descendants.

By his own admission, Schmidt hopes to raise enough funds to make a trial excavation of the ship.



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