England’s Doom Bar – The Saga of Maritime Horror

by Sankalan Baidya
England’s Doom Bar

We have already done an article on the Doom Bar earlier today. The article was titled, England’s Sinister & Cursed Sand Bar That Eats Ships. We learned how the sand bar came into existence and how the stories of it being cursed started to spread around. We learned about the mermaid’s curse too! What we didn’t learn in the previous article was the attempts that were made to get rid of the sand bar. This article will cover exactly that.

The First Attempts of 19th Century to Kill the Doom Bar

The Doom bar was pretty much in action well into the 19th century. Hundreds of ships were becoming victims. People were thinking of measures to get rid of the situation. In the process, a very ambitious solution was proposed in year 1846. The idea came from Plymouth and Padstow Railway. The idea was simple – get rid of the Doom Bar completely. But how?

The company said, ‘hey, let us build breakwaters that will stop sand influx’. The company then said, ‘hey, when the sand influx stops, lets scoop out the bar completely’. The question that next followed was, ‘what to do with the sand?’ The company again said, ‘hey, let’s put the sand to agricultural use’.

Good plan but it was abandoned. In 1858, the plan was revisited only to be laid off again by British Parliamentary Select Committee on Harbours for Refuge. Why was the plan scrapped off? Two premises actually:

  • The project would be too expensive.
  • The Doom Bar will rebuild itself again.

Other Attempts to Kill the Doom Bar

Several other plans came in to kill the Doom Bar completely. One of those plans was to build guide walls – two of them and really massive in size. The idea was to use the walls to move in fast-moving water into the area. What was expected? The fast-moving water would wash away the bar completely. Was it practical? No! Not really so! The idea was scrapped.

The second idea was to carve out the cliffs of the Stepper Point. The idea was simple – doing so will improve wind flow. More passage will be created. Mariners will get access to better maneuverability and can get past the sand bar. Really? Well, as it happened that the plan was actually put in business. A part of the cliff was actually carved off. Unfortunately, that didn’t help as well and shipwrecks were caused by the Doom Bar.

A Solution for Doom Bar that Continues till Today

In late 19th century and well into 20th century, a solution was thought of – not a permanent one though! Machineries were used to scoop out the sand from Doom Bar and other estuaries were made that would go around the sand bar. This practice is still in business today. In 2009, 120,000 tons of sand from the Doom Bar were removed. Unfortunately, the sand bar, pretty much enigmatically rebuilds itself. More disturbing is the fact that the Doom Bar rebuilds itself almost as fast as it is degenerated. So, bottom line is that the stretch of sand that has destroyed hundreds and even thousands of ships will never go away and the horror will continue.

Shipwrecks caused by the Doom Bar were counted since the beginning of the 19th century. Can you guess how many incidents have been recorded since then? 600! One of the most recent incidents was the beaching of two yachts in 2007. Luckily the yachts were beached and helicopter rescue managed to get the people onboard.

Prior to that, 1997 the Doom Bar capsized a fishing boat, killing two fishermen who were thrown off into the treacherous sea and they didn’t have life rafts to save their lives. A similar incident happened back in 1994.

The Doom Bar Devours Other Things Too!

If you think that the Doom Bar has this never ending appetite for ships only, you are wrong. Not just the Doom Bar, the other sand bars in the area are known for eating up almost everything they touch. Just 4,000 years ago when the sea level rose majorly, the sands gobbled up an entire forest that stood on a plain close to Cornwall. The submerged forest is still there on the eastern side of the infamous Doom Bar.

If you think that gobbling up an entire forest was an event of the remote past, don’t be mistaken. The sands here are moving constantly and they kind of get blamed for gobbling up houses and building close to the coast. That’s pure horror!

The Doom Bar Not Just Grabs, It Devours

The Doom Bar and its neighboring sand bars have this habit of not just grabbing and wrecking or beaching ships. They actually devour the whole ships. That’s pretty unsettling! What do we mean by devouring? We simply want to say that entire ships vanish into the sand and are then never ever seen again. One classic case is that of HMS Whiting. It was a 12-gun schooner.

That was the first war ship to have met her doom at the hands of Doom Bar. It was September 15 of 1816 when HMS Whiting was beached at the Doom Bar. The crew managed to escape but then the ship stayed back. The ship was then gradually devoured by the sand after some salvagers managed to grab whatever they could from the beached ship. Once the ship was devoured, no traces of the ship have been found ever. In 2010 Nautical Archeology Society tried to find whereabouts of HMS Whiting but failed miserably.

Antoinette – a cargo ship weighing 1,118 tons too disappeared at the Doom Bar. It was 1895 and Antoinette was on her way to Brazil and was loaded with coal. The ship foundered and steam tugboats were used for towing the ship. The towlines suddenly broke and Antoinette drifted away to its doom at the Doom Bar.

The crew managed to escape but the ship sank. Efforts were made to bring her out but the cursed sand bar didn’t want to let her go. Eventually the tides and currents carried Antoinette to another sand bar. It was in such a bad condition that rescuing was out of question and hence, attempts were made to blow it up and destroy it. That’ didn’t work either because even after the explosion, the wreck remained only to gradually disappear into the sand. Later many attempts were made to search Antoinette but no one could ever trace the whereabouts of the ship.

The Antoinette was returned in 2010 when the sandbar simply spat it out. It was jagged and skeletal and rose up from the sands mysteriously. Harbor authorities first thought it was a fishing boat that was named as Triumph and met her doom at the Doom Bar. Later studying skeletal remains convinced historians that it was Antoinette that returned from the dead into the world of the living.

The Doom Bar Stays and Changes Shape

The mysterious Doom Bar is present still today. It is barely 0.4 square miles in size and because of the constant shifting of the sand, the bar keeps changing its shape. It morphs into sizes and shapes that are hard to predict. It continues to baffle humans and every effort made by them to destroy this enigmatic sand bar. Over hundreds of years, it has captured imagination of humans and has found its place in literature and poetry too! But out of the books, the Doom Bar sits there silently, waiting for an unsuspecting prey. Dare to sail around it?


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