A pioneering British steamship has been discovered almost 140 years after it sank in Russia during an attempt to open a sea route between the UK and Siberia.
Researchers have found The Thames, a steamship with sails which braved the Arctic ice in the 19th century, sunk deep in the bed of the Yanisei river in Russia.
The ship was found with its stern above the sand and the rest buried eight metres beneath silt.
The find testifies to the legacy of British exploration close to the Arctic Circle throughout the 19th and early 20th century, researchers said.
Alexander Goncharov, associate professor at the Siberian State Aerospace University and a member of the expedition, said the team had set out along the Yanisei river with the intention of discovering the ship’s final resting place.
The 120-tonne steamship was captained by Joseph Wiggins, an explorer determined to find a sea route between Britain and Siberia through the Arctic Ocean. Under his guidance the ship was the first ocean vessel to enter the great Yanisei river and one of the first to navigate the North East Passage, which headed up Norway’s coast and across over Siberia to come down towards Japan.
When Captain Wiggins reached the Yanisei river in The Thames in 1876, he ran the ship aground where it froze to the riverbed, ‘The Independent’ reported. While he and his crew disembarked and sold some parts to local merchants, the abandoned ship sank in 1878.
Such was the British enthusiasm for securing a fast trade route to Siberia, which was rich in coal, fur and timber, that explorers continued to send boats every year from about 1893, said Goncharov.