A scuba diving author who spent years exploring one of Wales’ most important shipwrecks, sunk in a storm while carrying £120 million worth of gold, has been honoured for his work.
Chris Holden, a member of Chester Sub-Aqua Club, has been appointed as one of Britain’s first Wreck Champions by the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), which is the UK governing body for snorkelling and scuba and has the Duke of Cambridge as its president.
The accolade is in recognition of decades of dedication to the wreck of the steam clipper The Royal Charter, which sank off the beach of Porth Helaeth in Dulas Bay on the north-east coast of Anglesey, more than 150 years ago.
Chris, 68, from Higher Kinnerton, spent years researching the history and human tragedy behind the story of the Royal Charter, which sank on October 26, 1859, with the loss of at least 459 passengers and crew.
His book Life and Death on the Royal Charter, written with his wife Lesley, is considered a definitive work on the wreck and tragedy and he has presented many lectures on the wreck over the years.
The Royal Charter was returning from Melbourne to Liverpool, laden with gold from the Australian gold fields, when she was smashed against rocks off Moelfre, Anglesey during a Force 12 storm.
The wreck has been a source of huge interest for treasure hunters. Last year a gold panner from Norfolk reported he’d found what’s thought to be Britain’s biggest gold nugget from the wreck, worth £50,000, near Moelfre on Anglesey.
But he had to hand it over as the shipwreck is Crown property. However, it’s the people who were aboard the wreck who have interested retired computer engineer Chris, who took up diving in 1971 and is a BSAC Advanced Instructor and First Class diver with Chester Sub-Aqua Club.
He first dived on the Royal Charter in 1982 and says he was fascinated to learn more about the wreck and those that lost their lives in the tragedy.