Well, what a surprise. During some random wreck research the other day, I came across a mark named the “Outsider” on some charts. Putting the name into Wrecksite, up pops a page titled Outsider [+1922] as identified as “dead (not found)”. The vessel was identified as a barge of 49GRT and a captain Ernest Keel. A lost date of 4th January 1922. Thus, there is mark on the Admiralty Charts stated as the Outsider but Wrecksite says she is lost.
With any sort of information like this, my first point of reference is the British Newspaper Archive and with various searches of “outsider” and “ernest keel” around January 1922 delivered some spot on results. On Wednesday 4th January 1922, a barge called Outsider was sunk in a storm, off Dungeness with a captain named Ernest Keel. Voila I thought, I can now update some history to the Wrecksite page. Reading the various newspaper articles of the time, there was another man on board at the time, a William Durrent, not named on Wrecksite but who died from exhaustion. In one article, the Outsider was carrying a cargo of “spent oxide”.
What Is Spent Oxide?
Spent oxide was a waste material from the purification of town gas (any of several flammable gases sold and distributed by a municipal gasworks for lighting and heating in a town, including coal gas or water gas). Sometimes known as Blue Billy, spent oxide was a blue/green material of low pH (4) used as a by product for the production of sulphuric acid, but also occasionally used as a weed killer.
Bog iron ore (a fine granulated form of iron) was used to purify gas from water gas plants. Like coal gas, water gas would also contain hydrogen sulphide and organic sulphur compounds such as carbon disulphide, which would require purification prior to distribution. Like ammonium, the nitrogenous compounds which would form cyanide would have been removed from the coke during carbonisation, so little cyanide would be expected in the resulting spent oxide.
The sulphur-saturated bog iron ore could be regenerated up to three times by exposure to the atmosphere, after which it became spent oxide, which contained about 50% sulphur. Any cyanide contained in the spent oxide would be much less than the approximate 8% cyanide found in spent oxide from coal carbonisation.
Sulphuric acid was one of the most important industrial acids and its production was always in high demand. The main source of sulphur for the production of sulphuric acid was the spent oxide (or other spent purifying material) which would typically consist of about 50% sulphur. Gasworks were the source of most of Britain’s raw material for sulphuric acid production circa 1910.
And The Vessel?
Next step was to see if I can find anything else about the vessel itself and for this research, my next default research tool is the Crewlist Index Project. And there she was, one of two entries, the Outsider of 49 tons, built 1895 with a register closure of 1922. A “Spritsale” with official number 104316. The Appropriation Books showing a part of registry of Rochester. Then best of all, the shipping register’s New Registration for the Outsider, citing the vessel of one deck, two masts, square stern, made of wood and rigged as a spritsail. Dimensions 77 feet long, 17 feet wide, 5 feet draft and 49 tons.
What Is A Spritsail?
Simple enough, it was a flat hulled sailing vessel typically used to carry commercial goods along the Thames. Some were built for the sea, obviously the Outsider. Built a little earlier than our Outsider, the Mirosa was built in 1892 and of 49 tone. This photo probably as close as we are going to get of the look of the Outsider.
And then it struck me. We dived a vessel last month that has those traits. A mark to the south west of the WWI U-Boat U-17 minefield in search for the Hawarden Castle. I remember vividly, we dived a wrecksite of around 30m in length where we spotted wooden gunwales with an alien like mound of what we thought were rocks being used as ballast. The site was around 5m wide. It’s got to be, we have found the missing Outsider! Now to update Wrecksite. My only regret? Idid have my GoPro with me but due to the anticlimax of this not being the Hawarden Castle, I didn’t take any footage.