This sodden and weathered wood is from the keel and ribs of a shipwreck that lies hidden beneath the sand for most of the time. Just occasionally, when strong seas shift vast quantities of sediment and redistribute it across the shore, do you get a glimpse of these fantastic timbers. In some places, the wood is slowly rotting and separating down the grain into thin leaves or layers. In other parts, the edges have been broken down to stumps and the surfaces smoothed by the abrasive action of the sand and the pebbles that grind against them.
When wet, the colours of the timbers are rich oranges and browns. These hues are enhanced by staining from rusty nails that are corroding where they were hammered in. The more exposed pieces of wood dry to grey and show signs of shrinkage so that wooden pegs, that once joined major elements of the structure, can now lie loose in their sockets.
I fear for the wreck’s survival each time it is revealed. People kick against the wood and even cut off pieces. Much as I love to rediscover it each time it puts in a rare appearance, I am relieved when is slips from view under the sand once more.
This post was originally published on 16th February 2010 and is republished now because the wreck timbers that it features have re- appeared again after years of burial and are the subject of a new post dated 16th May 2014.
Once in a while, an old and un-named shipwreck mysteriously appears and disappears on the shore at Rhossili Bay. Its outline can be traced by the stumpy wooden ribs projecting from the sand. If the sediments shift enough, you can see where the ribs attach to the keel, and just make out some planking nailed to the outer surface of the ribs.
Wooden pegs from the original construction still remain in places, fixing one grainy timber to another. In other parts, orange stains in the slowly rotting wood show where iron nails were later used in repairs. Smooth rounded pebbles in subtle shades of blue, grey, green and pink, rest on this skeleton or are firmly wedged between the ribs.
The whole structure creates an intriguing design of contrasts: with timbers sometimes parallel and sometimes at different angles to each other; the linear ribs, planks and keel against the rounded stones; rough wood against smooth rock and sand; and the tans, browns and beiges of the ship against the yellow sand and multi-coloured pastel pebbles.
This post was originally published 30th September 2009 and is re-blogged now because the wreck has reappeared again after many years of burial as shown in the post of 16th May 2014.