By Gemma Handy
From 18th century tobacco pipes to live cannon balls, local diver Maurice Belgrave has turned up a treasure trove of historical artefacts in three decades of scouring the seabed around Antigua’s south coast.
On Tuesday, a routine underwater job in Falmouth Harbour unearthed what is believed to be a centuries-old pot used to transport olive oil or wine from Europe to Antigua.
“I saw it from the corner of my eye. From the shape of it, it looked like a cannon,” Belgrave told Observer.
“I picked it up, wiped it off and realised it was a broken artefact.”
Belgrave, who has a keen interest in history, regularly discovers intriguing relics while going about his day as a commercial diver in the bustling sailing district.
After consulting Antiguan archaeologist Dr Reginald Murphy, his finds are handed over to the museum for safekeeping.
Dr Murphy told Observer the jar was likely a Spanish-style amphora – or storage jar – dating back to the late 18th or early 19th century.
As the owner of Maurice Underwater Commercial Dive Services, a big part of Belgrave’s work is tending to the multi-million dollar yachts that frequent the area.
In 2013, he was cleaning an anchor chain when he came across the well-preserved remains of a 250-year-old naval vessel.
Last year, the 40-metre wooden boat was cited by experts as highly likely to be the 1762 Beaumont, a French merchant ship later used in the American Revolutionary War.
The muddy waters around English Harbour conceal a wealth of secrets from the country’s colonial past when it served as a safe harbour for Royal Navy ships.
“I love history. Every time I find a piece I call Reg and he will give me the story. It’s sweet music to my ears,” Belgrave enthused,
“I am on top of the world right now. It feels really good to continue to make history for our little rock – and it gives me great pleasure to contribute in a positive way to Antigua.”