Researchers believe that wreckage found off the coast of Filey is from the American warship USS Bonhomme Richard which sunk almost 250 years ago.
During a special meeting at the White Lodge Hotel in Filey, locals and officials heard that the discovery could bring a tourism bonanza for Filey and the East Yorkshire coast. The market for historical tourism in the United States in booming and could also see an upsurge in visits to the area. This is coupled with domestic tourism increasing in the U.K. partly due to to the falling strength of the pound.
The ship, under the command of Captain John Paul Jones, was said to have engaged in a four-hour battle with HMS Serapis off nearby Flamborough Head back in 1779.
The wreck was located by Maritime historian Tim Akers who was working with a U.K. based specialist satellite firm, Merlin Burrows.Mr. Akers said: “On our very first dive we knew we had found the Bonhomme Richard. From the finds and identifiable evidence, combined with the descriptions of the battle and both ships logs, we are convinced this is indeed the famous ship.”
During previous expeditions divers had discovered a wrecked wooden ship, but it could not be confirmed as the Bonhomme Richard.
Tim added: “Our wreck is littered with objects which can be identified in relation to the battle and burning. Our underwater filming clearly shows the burst guns, multiple artifacts and cannon balls. Ship stern decoration, ships bells, a figure head of a rampant lion and rigging are also all visible.”
The British warship HMS Serapis finally surrendered to John Paul Jones who was captain of the Bonhomme Richard.
However, The Bonhomme Richard was severely damaged during the battle, and it subsequently sank.
There have been several expeditions to identify the shipwreck, including one led by the US Navy.
Historically, the Battle of Flamborough Head was regarded as a milestone in naval war engagement. It was noted as ‘strategic victory for the Americans and a tactical victory of the British.’
A group of historians and U.S. researchers were involved in the hunt for the Bonhomme Richard in July 2006. At the time, a press conference was held at Sewerby Hall, with historian Dr Bob Nayland out-lining the search plans.