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The Schiedam was a pirate ship for a period of time in between its life in the Dutch East India Company and its time in the English fleet. It wrecked in 1684 off the coast of Cornwall in England while transporting English munitions; and recently, two hand grenades still filled with gunpowder from that ship have washed up on a beach. 

The pair of 17th century hand grenades were made with iron shells and filled with gunpowder. “These are the earliest type of grenade used by British soldiers, who were selected for their strength and ability to throw them long distances,” local historian Robert Felce told CornwallLive. “These men formed the forerunners of the British Grenadiers and their badge of identification still shows a similar grenade.”

Grenade casing with powder intact (left) before removal, and with black powder removed (right).

Grenade casing with powder intact (left) before removal, and with black powder removed (right).

The grenades were heavily encrusted after lying at the bottom of the ocean for 334 years. Felce told LiveScience he actually thought the second grenade was a rock when he discovered it in November 2018—that is, until he dropped it and it broke open, revealing damp gunpowder inside. (He then contacted the police, who worked with the Naval Bomb Disposal Unit to properly move the grenade.)

Originally, the Schiedam was was a ship of the Dutch East India Company, which colonized southern Africa and southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Pirates off of Gibraltar captured the ship in 1683, and an English ship recaptured it from them.

After that, the Schiedam became a carrier in the English fleet. It sailed to English-occupied Tangier in Morocco before England evacuated the city in early 1684. The Schiedam was transporting English military weapons back to England on April 4, 1684 when it ran aground at Cornwall’s Gunwalloe Church Cove and sank into the ocean, where it’s been ever since.

The Schiedam has actually been “discovered” a few times since its demise. Divers first identified its remains in 1971, but the wreck was later covered up by sands on the seafloor. Divers then rediscovered the shipwreck in 2016. Since then, divers have identified 11 cannons, a gun carriage wheel and lead musket shot, in addition to the grenades that washed up on the beach.

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