Two British divers have finally got to the bottom of a 200-year-old ship wreck mystery which claimed the life of a famous actress and sunk with thousands of pounds of treasure.
Todd Stevens and Ed Cummings say they have discovered the long-lost wreck of ‘The Nancy’ which smashed on rocks off Cornwall in 1784.
The pair claim to have found the wreck of The Nancy which carried Ann Cargill – an infamous opera singer and beauty whose scandalous behaviour prompted outrage in Parliament.
The exact whereabouts of the ship has baffled divers and historians for more than 200 years, but now the two divers say they have finally found it.
Mr Stevens and Mr Cummings said the ten-gun ship, which sank killing 49 passengers and crew, lies much further out than originally thought and is scattered across 300 yards of the seabed.
Former child star Ann was the highest paid actress in the world charging ‘astonishing’ fees but sparked a string of controversies with a series of affairs – the first aged just 15.
She was en route to London from Bombay where she had been kicked-out for having a string of lovers and an illegitimate baby.
But when The Nancy hit rocks in stormy seas, Ann and her baby jumped into a small lifeboat with other passengers which also sank – killing them all.
Mr Stevens and Mr Cummings have now officially ‘adopted’ the wreck but say efforts to find the treasure have been hampered – by the British weather.
Mr Cummings, 62, said: ‘This has always been one of the most intriguing wrecks to go after.
‘It has everything – a beautiful actress, a tragic shipwreck and a lost fortune.
‘Doing this has been so rewarding. We are still trying to piece together the human stories around the wreck but we are sure we have found her.
‘We have found the anchor, one of the guns and some bits and pieces. The weather has been awful so diving has been extremely difficult.’
The Nancy sank off the coast of the Isles of Scilly and official papers referred to the passengers being ‘driven’ into the small Rosevear Island.
But through research the pair realised descriptions of a boat being ‘driven’ referred to the lifeboat – and not the Nancy itself.
Mr Cummings said: ‘We realised that after the ship had hit the rocks, the passengers had got into a smaller boat and that was the one that ‘driven’ onto Rosevear.
‘So people were looking in the wrong place for the Nancy, they should have been looking further out.’
The first thing the islanders knew about it was when paperwork began washing ashore and onto beaches.
Bodies were found including a woman clutching her dead baby – who rescuers were unaware was Ann Cargill, then aged 24.
She had caused outrage aged 15 by running off with the playwright Miles Peter Andrews while starring in a production of the Fairy Prince.
Ann went onto become the world’s highest paid actress but was later ejected from India on the orders of Prime Minister William Pitt The Younger.
He told Parliament of the day ‘an actress should not be defiling the pure shores of India’ and she boarded The Nancy to return hone in disgrace.
In 1779 and 1780 Ann was the world’s highest paid actress receiving ten pounds a week as a singer, but later eloped with a Mr Cargill to Edinburgh.
Following the crash she was buried in a pauper’s grave and her paperwork sent to London where officials realised who she was and her body exhumed and reburied in the Scilly capital, St Mary’s.
The wreck of the Nancy has been eagerly sought throughout the centuries and in the 1970s a number of unsuccessfully diving expeditions were launched.
But ten years ago Mr Stevens a diver, and Mr Cummings a former diver and boatman, both from Scilly, began to research the history and, with a small team of helpers, located the wreck last year.
They have now ‘adopted’ the wreck through the Nautical Archaeology Society and any treasure will have to be logged and reported to the Receiver of Wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Mr Stevens said: ‘It has been a real thrill. This kind of discovery is what you go diving for. It is not about the money – its is about the recognition.
‘We are still searching for the gold and jewels but if we find them we will hand them all over to the Isles of Scilly Museum.’