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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

First Archaeological Flight Over The Smalls Reef, Pembrokeshire

Passing Grassholm Island on the way to The Smalls, 9 miles west of the mainland.
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On the 9th September 2010, the Royal Commission’s Aerial Investigator Toby Driver made the first archaeological flight to The Smalls reef, nearly 18 miles off the Pembrokeshire mainlaind, to survey the lighthouse and its rocks at low tide. The treacherous reef which extends for miles around The Smalls has claimed many wrecks over the years, the oldest and most famous being a Viking shipwreck. This was indicated by the find of a Viking sword-guard by sport divers in 1991 beneath a modern wreck which remains one of the finest Viking artefacts known from Wales.

Alone in the sea: The Smalls lighthouse approaching from the east.
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 A request was made to the Royal Commission last year by National Museum Wales for aerial photography of the reef at low tide, so that the numerous submerged rocks could be plotted and better understood. The tide on 9th September was one of the lowest of the year, and Toby and his pilot set out from Haverfordwest Airport armed with cameras, maps – and life jackets for safety over the sea. The flight out west took nearly 25 minutes, passing Skomer Island and Grassholm on the way. The Smalls, with its elegant stone lighthouse of 1861, emerged on the distant horizon and steadily got closer. When we reached it overhead at a height of some 2,000 feet it was important to get as many detailed and wide-angle shots as possible in a single orbit around the reef. The tide was surging through the rocks below the aircraft and the resulting pictures clearly show the extent of the visible and submerged reef. While we were out above the lighthouse, so far from the mainland, we felt some empathy with the Viking crew that had come to grief on those same rocks so many centuries ago.

The Smalls lighthouse. Overhead the lighthouse and its treacherous rocks.
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The Smalls lighthouse.
A wider view showing the visible and submerged rocks of The Smalls reef.
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Related Maritime Archaeology Links:
See: The Smalls Shipwreck Coflein Entry.
Discover more: Shipwrecks in Wales Coflein

Wales Maritime Related Links:

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