Project "St. Theodore" shipwreck



Count Alexey Orlov

Empress Catherine the Great

The year 1769. There the Russian and Ottoman empires are at war. Russia has no fleet in the Black Sea, and the Russian Empress Catherine the Great decides to send the Baltic Fleet to the Mediterranean to strike at the Ottoman rear. Image 2 shows the route of Russian ships to the Mediterranean. Commander of the Russian force was Count Alexey Orlov. This military enterprise was named in Russia the 1-st Archipelago Expedition.


Route of Russian ships of the military expedition of Count Orlov (1-st Archipelago Expedition)

Great Britain took signtificly part in this military expedition of Count Orlov. Officially, the British and Russian empires were not allies. However, Britain secretly supplied Russian sailors with weapons, ammunition, the British treated the Russian wounded and sick in their hospitals.

British frigate "St. Theodor "- a member of the military expedition of Count Orlov The frigate "Saint Theodore" took part in the military expedition of Count Orlov. This ship was part of the British aid. The ship came to the island of Paros in the Aegean Sea as part of a naval convoy that delivered reinforcements to Count Orlov. Here the frigate was bought for a very symbolic price and became part of the Russian fleet. About this event, one of the participants in the 1st Archipelago expedition in the Aegean Sea, captain Khmetevsky3 wrote in his diary: “Two English frigates of transport ships were bought. For one they paid 2272, and for the other 2172 rubles, which are called St. Theodore and St. Gregory".


The fragment of the logbook of the frigate "Saint Theodore" from Archive of the Russian Navy in St. Petersburg.

The fregate's logbook begins in the Aegean Sea, where a British captain hands over this ship to a Russian captain. This is fragment of this text: ...the purchased 22-gun English frigate "Royal Britain" was renamed "Theodore", and the fleet captain of the 2-nd rank Fedor Bulgakov took him over from the English captain Richard Wilson.

All text of this fragment of the frigate "Saint Theodore" logbook:
The logbook of the frigate "Theodore", kept in the Archipelago on all occasions when the commanders of the 2nd Rank Captain Bulgakov and the Fleet Commander-Lieutenant Muromtsev were on it. Military company of 1771. On the 14th day of April from noon in 1771, standing in the port of Auza (Naousa, Paros island) with the fleet. All sorts of cases. Moderate wind N / O slightly cloudy sky shining of the sun. By virtue of the general's order from his Excellency Mr. Admiral and various orders of the cavalier Grigory Andreevich Spiridov, the purchased 22-gun English frigate "Raval Britton" was renamed "Theodore", and the fleet captain of the 2-nd rank Fedor Bulgakov took him over from the English captain Richard Wilson. It has twenty - 6-pounder cast-iron cannons, the plecht anchor (main), and the large spare anchor of the warp , and about anchors weigh, the English commander announced that he did not know.

The crew on the frigate was mixed - Russian-Greek. The frigate taken part in combat missions and ship sank in the Aegean Sea during one of them as a result of a strong leak. The crew was rescued by corsairs of Count Marco Voinovich. The ship's log ends in October 1771 on the island of Saint Eustratius in the Aegean Sea, where the frigate "Saint Theodore" sank. She lies near the island of Saint Eustratius at a depth that allows underwater archaeologists to research it. As we find information about area of St Theodore wreck – it is sank at the depth about 60 m. We think, it would be great to organize join expedition with Britain and Greece colleagues to explore St Theodore.

Hypothesis about the origin of the frigate "Saint Theodore"
We analyzed the sales of British frigates for 1769, 1770 and 1771. In order to do this, we used the book Rif Winfield “British warships of the age of sail, 1714-1792: design, construction, careers and fates”5. These sources indicate that in 1769 and 1771 the frigates were not sold, and in 1770 they were sold 4 units:

1.HMS Adventure (1741), 40-gun frigate, razed to 32-gun frigate.
2.HMS Crown (1747) 44-gun frigate.
3.HMS Boreas (1757) 28-gun frigate.
4.HMS Sphinx (1748) 24-gun frigate.

Of these four frigates only HMS Sphinx is suitable for the characteristics of the "St. Theodore". Here are her specs: Sphinx as built: 113ft 8in, 93ft 6in x 32ft 4in x 11ft 0in. 52057/94 bm. Guns: LD 2 x 9pdrs (aft); UD 20 x 9pdrs; QD 2 x 3pdrs.

In fact, HMS Sphinx probably originally had 22-gun ports for 9-pounders and 2 small guns on the quarterdeck. If they have been removed before the transfer, the ship would have begun to look like a 22-gun.

Our hypothesis: HMS Sphinx was retired from the Royal Navy and officially sold for firewood. The guns were replaced from 9-pounders to 6-pounders, 2 3-pounders guns were removed. The ship was renamed Royal Britain. She was loaded with food and ammunition and sent as part of a naval convoy to the Mediterranean Sea to Count Orlov.

What actually happened can be suggested by documents stored in the British archives. Anyway, when this ship was transferred from Britain to Russia, it was no longer new, so it is likely that the British archives also have interesting documents about the adventures of this ship.


HMS Sphinx. This is what the frigate "Saint Theodore" supposedly looked like in the Royal Navy. Drawing from www.shipmodell.com.


Report on the frigate "Saint Theodore" at a conference in Greece
The authors of this article made report about St. Theodore in the international underwater archaeology conference Dive in Blue Growth in Athens in May 2021 https://www.livemedia.com/diveinbluegrowth. One of the main topics of the conference was promotion of Accessible Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites and the development of tourism in the Aegean region.
We proposed to promote dive sites similar shipwreck "Saint Theodore" for tourists with museum exhibitions and films. By combining archival documents with artifacts, we get content not only for scientific publications, but also for creating interesting museum exhibitions and films, documentaries and fiction.
 
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