The Mohegan was a 147m long, 6889 ton steamship that was en-route to New York from London. The course it steered as it passed Cornwall, was completely wrong. It was steering a course of 280 degrees as it passed 3 miles south of the Eddystone, that would drive it onto the shore just East of Falmouth. At some point it changed course and a witness, Mr Fooks the receiver of wreck, thought it was then heading into Falmouth harbour. It changed course and Fooks then thought it was heading for the Helford. Fooks then noticed it was heading south, hopefully into clear water. The Porthoustock lifeboat coxswain, James Hill, spotted the ship, he thought it was heading towards him. He then noticed it change course again, presuming that was after the shore lights were noticed. Knowing the ship was in danger, Hill summoned the lifeboat crew. The Mohegan hit Pen-Wyn at full speed, losing it’s rudder, continuing for a quarter of a mile when it ended up hitting the rocks known as the Voices (Maen Voes). Over 100, people including crew and passengers, lost their lives during the incident.
There has been a lot of speculation as to the cause of the ship’s course and course changes. The Board of Enquiry stated that the ship steered a course of W 3/4 N, which is around 280 degrees, as it passed Eddystone. That course would have caused the Mohegan to run aground near Portloe in Veryan Bay. Unfortunately, none of the people in charge of the ship’s course after this bearing was taken survived, so we do not know what happened next. For it to appear to Mr Fooks, to be heading into Falmouth Harbour, it must have made a couple of changes. What this shows us, is that if the ship was wrecked for the insurance, why were they avoiding the land? The ship was insured for £28,000 less than it’s value, the £28k was the accepted liability of the owners. If you are going to commit insurance fraud, insure it for more than it’s worth. The enquiry stated that the Captain wasn’t well, he never came down for the evening meal. Was he so ill he was confused? He may have ordered the wrong bearing from Eddystone, confusing it with the course to steer from the Lizard. Then being so ill, he wasn’t able to make any more decisions, leaving the crew to make decisions at the last minute. This would account for so many course changes.
Then there is the headless corpse that washed ashore three months later, near the home of Captain Griffiths. It was identified as Captain Griffiths. We are yet to find our who did the identification. Bodies at sea sink first, then float after gases build up, then sink again. They do not float around for months waiting to be identified. The Captains wife was spotted in the U.S. a while later, how did she afford the trip. Did the insurance or company pay out? They wouldn’t pay out without a body, was it her that identified the body? She would have had some of his clothes at home, did she arrange for them to appear on a headless corpse, to get a pay out? We may never know, it is very doubtful that that body was Captain Griffiths. Unless he had survived and was the person who was spotted jumping out and running away from the Porthoustock lifeboat, when it came ashore. If the wrecking wasn’t for the ship’s insurance, was Griffiths insured? The unknown answers to these questions are what keeps the mystery of the Mohegan’s wrecking alive today.
Over the years it has had a lot of salvage work done, even the engine was salvaged in 1963. It lies quite broken but is huge and it takes a long time to swim from one end to the other. Most boats drop their shot lines around the boilers, they are huge and easily spotted on the sounder. There are actually four boilers, it looks like three boilers but one is two small boilers back to front. It is surrounded by rocks of the Manacles which are covered in anemones and corals. The wreck itself is a haven for life and you can see just about everything you could expect to see in the U.K.
There are still items being found though. On a recent dive one diver brought up a brass valve, another brought up a glass mineral water bottle still with it’s cork in.
There is something for everyone on this dive, whether you like squidge or spidge it’s all there. It can only be dived at slack water as the currents can be strong. Although there is a lot of slack on small neap tides.