Sunk on 28 July 1894 after a collision with a german Barque off Dungeness. The Castor was en voyage from Algeria to Amsterdam, transporting valuable antiquities. Part of the cargo, marble sculptures were found in 1994 and returned to Turkey, through the receiver of wrecks.
In July 1997 divers from a Folkestone diving club handed over seven 2nd century marble statues to a grateful Turkish Embassy at a special reception in London. The divers had found the statues on the wreck of the SS Castor off Dungeness in Kent. The steam ship had gone down in a collision in 1894 while it was taking the marbles, which included statues of Venus and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, to Holland after they had been illegally removed from Izmir by the Dutch vice-consul. There were various claimants to the marbles, valued at £25,000 and Veronica Robbins, as Receiver of Wreck, decided that Turkey was the true owner. The marbles have now been sent back to Turkey. The return of these marbles has again raised the question on whether the Elgin Marbles in the British museum should be returned to Greece.
One of the divers was all for making the statues part of his patio, untill their importance was realised by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, but the divers will now be well pleased with their salvage reward. The statues were originally in a crate, which was one of two in the cargo. The hunt is now on for crate number 2…
August 1999 Police and Customs officers have searched a vessel in Dover and seized “various marine artefacts”, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The action is believed to be connected with a recent report submitted to the Receiver of Wreck by divers from the British Sub-Aqua Club’s Folkestone branch concerning the activities of a foreign-registered motor vessel.
The divers had informed the Receiver of what they believed to be an attempt to plunder the wreck of the Castor, 3 miles off Dungeness. The vessel was known to contain valuable Graeco-Roman marble statues and inscribed stones. The branch made a mid-July visit to the site in their RIB to find the motorboat lying over the wreck with an airlift deployed and divers in the water.
“They were clearly not happy to see us,” one of the divers told Diver. “We moved off to another dive site half a mile away and, although we were some way off, we saw what looked like material being hauled up on deck. They continued to work for a while before departing.”
The 180ft Dutch cargo ship Castor, bound from Turkey to Amsterdam, sank in 1894 after colliding with another vessel. The wreck, lying in 30m of water with its highest point at 14m, was regularly dived in recent times. No one was aware of its precious cargo until 1994, when members of Folkestone BSAC found a wooden chest in one of the holds. Inside were five inscribed tombstones and two marble sculptures of human heads. Folkestone raised the artefacts and reported them to the Receiver of Wreck. Experts identified them and, in an example of international co-operation, they were eventually returned to Turkey, their land of origin.
Following the find, research at the Rijksmuseum in Leiden identified the cargo’s Dutch buyer – and that other stones and marbles were aboard, including a complete Roman marble figure.
Folkestone divers continued to dive the wreck and had only recently located several more chests, their corners protruding from the seabed. One diver reportedly put his hand through a hole in one and “felt stone”.
Renewed contact with archaeologists and excavation was the obvious next step, but then came the Belgian vessel’s visit. “We’ve been down since we spotted their boat and the chests are now gone,” said one local Folkestone diver. Another source spoke of broken wood spread across the sea floor.