Divers find 18th-century Danish warship

Divers find 18th-century Danish warship
Parts of of the wreckage under the sea near Læsø. Photo: HANDOUT/Undervandsgruppen.dk/Ritzau Scanpix
Divers in Denmark have located a warship that sank near the island of Læsø 238 years ago.

The 52-metre, 70-cannon Printz Friederich went down with almost 500 men on board during a storm on September 30th, 1780.

A diving team named Undervandsgruppen (The Underwater Group) has worked to locate the wreck for over ten years.

“We’ve sailed 2,500 nautical miles and combed 100 square kilometres of seabed. We were ready to give up because we thought we weren’t going to find it,” the team’s leader Kim Schmidt told Ritzau.

“This ship was overlooked a little. After 1781, no one gave it a second thought,” Schmidt said.

Divers from the group have recovered a number of objects from the shipwreck, including a lead plate with a royal crown and some lead cannon balls.

Authorities will now decide whether to recover more objects from the sunken ship.

Almost all of the ship’s 500-strong crew were rescued after it ran aground and sank. Between 6-8 men are thought to have died.

“The sinking was a complete disaster for the Danish navy, since the ship constituted one fifth of the fleet,” Schmidt said.

The ship was engaged in a mission when it ran aground in stormy weather.

“The captain was taken ill and the first mate was in charge. The ship was blown completely off course, and they had no idea where they were. They could not see landmarks or stars to navigate by,” Schmidt said.

But boats sent from the nearby island of Læso were able to save the majority of the people on board after the ship went down.

“It was quite turbulent for the people of Læsø. They had to find food and shelter for 500 people. Many were given lodgings with single women, and that resulted in a lot of descendents (from the crew),” the diving team leader said.

The story of the Printz Friederich shipwreck is to be featured at Læsø Museum, Ritzau writes.

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