Diver fathoms out Hastings wreck riddle as name of vessel rings bell

Pete Hodkin shows off his prize catch the bell from the SS Ladoga
Pete Hodkin shows off his prize catch the bell from the SS Ladoga
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A DIVER has fathomed the mystery of a century old shipwreck after making a fascinating discovery.

A CENTURY old mystery of the identity of a shipwreck off the coast of Hastings may have finally been solved after a diver made a fascinating discovery.

Pete Hodkin was diving what has been known for many years in diving circles as ‘Wreck 355’ when he discovered the ships bell bearing its real name – The SS Ladoga.

The 52-year-old had gone out about five miles as part of a diving party from Mid Herts Divers on board a boat run by Dive 125 based in Eastbourne.

He had dived to the wreck around 25 metres and was inspecting the ship’s anchor chain around 4.30pm last Saturday when he came across what he thought was an old plate buried in the sand.

“I was swimming along when I suddenly saw something round in the sand,” said Pete. “It was in a jumbled up mess of steelwork.

Click here to see dive footage

“At first I thought it was a plate. As I got a bit closer I thought it could be a bucket but as I picked it up I realised it was a bell. And I thought ‘Wow what a find!’

“It was shiny, about 5kg in weight and in good condition and had the inscription SS Ladoga 1892 London.

“I was really excited - it was the most exciting thing I had ever found.

“Locating a bell is one of the most valuable things a diver can ever find. It is usually the only positive means of identification of a boat.”

Records show that the SS Ladoga disappeared after a collision off the coast of Hastings on March 15, 1903. Three men lost their lives.

It was a steam cargo ship that was built by William Doxford and Sons Ltd in Sunderland in 1892.

It was renamed SS Miraflores in 1900 but it is not known which ship it collided with.

Pete has contacted the official UK Wreck Receiver, which must be done by law, to declare the find.

The owner of the bell will then have 12 months to claim it.

Pete has volunteered to donate the bell to the Hastings Shipwreck Museum if he ends up as its custodian.

Museum curator Peter Marsden said: “The bell is a fantastic find and we would be delighted if we could put it on display here.

“It is part of the psyche of the ship - it was considered bad luck to change its name.

“I’ve never heard of the SS Ladoga so we could turn it into an interesting attraction for our visitors.

“It is very valuable opportunity for us and a fascinating story.

“We are very grateful for the kind offer to give it to the museum.”

If anyone has any information about how SS Ladoga sank call the Observer’s chief reporter Sol Buckner on 01424 856760.