The Admiral Gardner Shipwreck

Over two-hundred years after the inception of the British East India Company (BEIC), the debt buying and interest rate hikes resulted in a great deal of notoriety and no small amount of wealth. The shell company had outgrown itself as a tax shelter and became a money making operation doing the Crown’s dirty work. During the heyday of colonialism the BEIC gathered more capital by performing Black Ops for the British Crown, especially in India. Although company money was plentiful at the dawn of the 19th century, suppression is an expensive business, and the BEIC needed to send a ship of coin-tokens and other supplies to the India territories.

The cache of coin-tokens was protected by 23 to 26 guns installed on the Admiral Gardner in 1796, but guns are little protection against inclement weather. The experienced Captain, William John Eastfield successfully made the journey from the English coast, around the Cape of Good Hope, to India and back again before, but his skill was no match for that sudden gale and the ineptitude of the ship’s pilot. In addition to her cargo of coins meant to pay Native workers for their labor in India, the Admiral Gardner carried, “anchors, chain, guns, shot and iron bar” (West). This heavy cargo coupled with damage from a previous French attack, set the ship low in the water and made it more susceptible to sinking.

On the night of the storm the Admiral Gardner lay at anchor beside the Britannia and Carnatic, also employed by the BEIC. When the weather turned sour, the pilot decided to free the Admiral Gardner but cutting anchor. Armed with an axe, the pilot went on deck and swung, but missed, and cut off three of his own fingers. He was taken below decks for treatment, but no one took up the axe. The anchor drug the ship into the nearby hazard. The gale thrashed the sails and ran the ship aground. It sunk before morning and all cargo was lost to the sea. Almost 200 years later, “over 1 million coins were raised which accounts for only half of the 54 tons on board when she sank” (West). The coppers were protected from oxidation by paper, and mud which buried the cache beneath the sea.

Here at Pendant and Ring we have crafted Admiral Gardner Shipwreck pendant necklaces. The coins included the following paperwork explaining their journey…


On January 25, 1809, the Admiral Gardner set sail through the English Channel, headed for India. Shortly into the journey, a sudden and violent storm hit the Channel just off Dover. Captain William John Eastfield and his crew tried desperately to ride out the storm, but the mighty ship eventually succumbed. It ran aground on the Goodwin Sands and, by the next morning, had sunk, claiming the precious coin cargo and the lives of four crew members.

The coins were minted in Birmingham, England for use by the East India Company in the Madras Presidency. The obverse of each coin bears the East India Company arms. The motto underneath translates to read, “Under the Patronage of the King and Parliament of England.” The reverse of the “tens” and “twenties” are inscribed in Persian and translate, respectively, to read, “Ten Cash are equal to Two Falus” and “Twenty cash are equal to Four Falus.”

[All] East India Company “cash” [coins on Pendant and Ring were recovered] in 1985 from the shipwreck of “The Admiral Gardner,” a 145-foot-long three decker built in 1796. The ship, with seven men aboard, sank during a storm on the notorious Godwin Sands in the English Channel on January 25, 1809. [Three men escaped, but four lost their lives.]

The coins had been lightly wrapped and stored in wooden casks, hence remained in excellent condition on the sea bed. The cold water and mud bottom preserved them better than if they had been in warmer water.


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For more information about the ship, the sinking, the treasure hunters, and the recovery of artifacts read this article.

West, Doug. “Wreck of the Treasure Ship the Admiral Gardner.” Owlcation, A MAVEN Channel, 5 Aug. 2018, owlcation.com/humanities/Wreck-of-the-Treasure-Ship-the-Admiral-Gardner. https://owlcation.com/humanities/Wreck-of-the-Treasure-Ship-the-Admiral-Gardner

 

 

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