History and Layout
Over the years there has been much speculation as to the origin of these cannon. One of the most interesting is that it could be the remains of a floating battery that sunk in the ‘Grand Attack’ on Gibraltar of 13th September 1782, during the Gibraltar’s Great Siege.
A survey of the site was carried out in 1992 by Oxford MARE and the Gibraltar Museum (in association with the German marine archaeological organization ‘Deguwa’ and the marine archaeological programme of Bangor University) under the overall direction of Mensun Bound of Oxford MARE. A large group of local divers assisted with the survey, notably the Gibraltar Sub Aqua Club (BSAC 888).
The site itself lies at a depth of around 25-29m and consists of a large mound of cannon balls covering an area of approximately 256 square metres, with several cannon protruding from the pile. To the west there is a large spread of haphazardly arranged cannon. All the pieces are of iron and therefore heavily encrusted.
Although it is tempting to delve into the history of this event, the difficulties in reconciling the varying number, positions and calibre of both ordinance and shot, taken together with the absence of any evidence of a ship, point to the very real possibility that rather than a wreck, the cannon pile is just – a random aggregation of artillery pieces and shell that were ignominiously dumped in the sea when no longer needed. Further work on this site is needed, and it goes without saying that although an interesting dive, the area is an archaeological site and should be treated with the respect it deserves.
It is a shame that a floating battery from the Grand Attack was known since the 1960’s but unfortunately little work was done on it apart from a preliminary excavation in 1970 and it was finally covered up during reclamation activities in the late 1980’s. For any readers interested in reading more about the Grand Attack, they are directed to the many varied books on Gibraltar’s history. Specific references to the cannon pile survey and the floating batteries can be found in the bibliography at the end.
Extract courtesy of D. Fa. & P. Smith: Underwater Gibraltar - A Guide to the Rocks Submerged Sites.
The Cannon Pile, off Europa Point.