A fortune worth £1 million remains undiscovered in the shipwreck of the Royal Charter off the coast of Anglesey, says an experienced treasure hunter who has dived to the wreck dozens of times.
Vincent Thurkettle is fascinated by the story of the ship which sank on the Anglesey coast in 1859 and the S4C series Trysor Coll y Royal Charter (lost treasure of the Royal Charter) has been following him on his most recent expedition in search of the lost gold.
"I do think that there is gold yet to be found. She (The Royal Charter) was probably carrying well over £100 million in gold (at least £80 million in cargo, plus the passengers' personal belongings) and even if 99% has been recovered now – that still leaves at least a million undiscovered!" says Vincent Thurkettle.
The Royal Charter was on the final leg of her voyage from Australia to Britain when she was smashed to pieces by one of the biggest storms ever to hit Britain, on 26 October 1859. The terrible tragedy took the lives on 497 passengers and with her sank her precious cargo of gold. After 150 years on the seabed, Vincent admits it's becoming increasingly difficult to find anything of value amongst the remains of the wreck.
"The debris scattered on the seabed includes everything from broken plates to dress-making pins and coal," he says. "The last of the gold may never be found, it all could be in one small pocket in the rocks or clay, or scattered by the current or dropped as the stern was cut, lifted and towed away."
But Vincent has uncovered relics which would have been very dear to some of the ship's passengers; including a small, beautifully crafted ring of gold, opal and diamonds and a snuff box engraved with the name Edward Bennett. In the final episode on Wednesday 31 July (S4C, 7.30pm. English subtitles) we'll see Vincent and series presenter Gwenllian Jones Palmer use some of these items to try and track down a living relative of one of the people on board the Royal Charter.
"To be honest, initially I was lured by the stories of lost gold, but over the years I have definitely become passionate about the people and their story. Their adventure, success, hopes and tragedy – also the pure raw courage of the rescuers from nearby Moelfre," says Vincent, who was thrilled to be given the chance to track down the stories of the owners for the documentary.
"I found tracking down the owner of the ring the most moving. I had never dreamed of trying to trace the descendents. It seemed preposterous at first, but then we started finding information. You'll have to watch the programme on Wednesday to find out if we were successful!"
Trysor Coll y Royal Charter is an international co-production by TiFiNi, S4C, S4C Co-production Fund, ITV and Foxtel Australia.
Trysor Coll y Royal Charter
Wednesday 14 July 8.25pm (English subtitles)
Catch up with the rest of the series (with English subtitles) online, on demand, on Clic