The Sunday Telegraph

Scientists hunt for Yorkshire’s ‘Atlantis’, swallowed by sea in 1362

- By Charles Hymas

SCIENTISTS are deploying the most advanced sonar and magnetic scanning technology to solve the mystery of Yorkshire’s “Atlantis”.

They are trying to find the lost mediaeval Humber port of Ravenser Odd, which was swallowed up by the sea in the 14th century after one of the biggest storm surges in the North Sea’s history.

Tens of thousands died in the St Marcellus flood of 1362, which forced the residents of Ravenser Odd to abandon what was then one of the major medieval trading sea hubs on the east coast of England, rivalling Hull and Grimsby.

A group of marine experts and historians have teamed up to establish the location and remnant stone structures of Ravenser Odd beneath the sands of the Humber estuary.

Its discovery will not only solve a historical mystery but also provide vital clues to the future shape of the estuary and Spurn Head peninsula. The Humber is a critical deep water trading route for the UK, while the Holderness coastline, to the north of Spurn Head, is the fastest eroding shore in Europe.

The scientists are using a combinatio­n of ground-penetratin­g radar and magnetic gradiometr­y to probe beneath the seabed in the hope of finding Ravenser Odd, which began life as a port on the narrow spit of shingle and clay known as Spurn Head that forms the north bank of the mouth of the Humber.

It grew into a prosperous settlement and in 1299, a charter made Ravenser Odd into a recognised borough and exempted its merchants from some taxes. This allowed the town to build its own court, jail and chapel. It was represente­d by two members of parliament.

By the mid-14th century, storms and strong tidal currents of the North Sea took their toll on the settlement, with the 1362 St Marcellus’s flood delivering the final blow.

The location of Ravenser Odd has long been contested because the evolution of Spurn Head remains uncertain.

The search is being led by Dr Steve Simmons, a lecturer in energy and environmen­t at Hull University, and Phil Mathison, a historian. One theory suggests the Spurn Head peninsula gradually extends across the mouth of the Humber every 250 years before being breached, creating an island while a new spit is formed further inland. This would place Ravenser more than a mile offshore from the present peninsula, suggesting the Humber could silt up, threatenin­g its future as a trade route.

Mr Mathison, who has spent years investigat­ing the area’s history, believes the truth is closer to home and the remains of the town pass under the spit.

This is where he and Dr Simmons have focused their search. If their theory is correct and they find Yorkshire’s lost “Atlantis”, Dr Simmons said it would overturn the cyclical spit theory, potentiall­y dispelling the threat to trade.

“It has implicatio­ns for the Humber estuary. It’s a significan­t trade route, accounting for 25 per cent of this country’s sea trade,” said Dr Simmons. “If we found the town, it would provide significan­t evidence to how the spit evolved. It would knock down the theory of it being cyclical.”

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