VETERAN diver Robert Lisle has uncovered a piece of history from the bottom of the sea off the North East coast.
The 70-year-old found this silver cup on a North Sea dive, 72 years after it sank with a wrecked ship.
The MS Oslofjord hit a mine in the River Tyne on December 1, 1940, and has lain rusting deep beneath the waves ever since.
Robert, who has been diving for 15 years, was out diving with skipper Allan Lopez in his boat Spellbinder II when he spotted the aging cup.
“I have dived on the wreck many, many times and never found anything but this time I was lucky,” said Robert, who lives in Monkseaton, North Tyneside.
“I saw a big lobster on the bottom and next to it, there was about a quarter of an inch of the cup sticking out. I could see it was silver.
“I really had to dig it out, and it was badly damaged. But I took it to a jewellers to be cleaned and restored and it looks wonderful.”
The MS Oslofjord was built as a luxury liner for the Norwegian American Line in 1938, and could carry 860 passengers. But she was turned into a troop ship during the Second World War. On December 1, 1940, immediately after being fitted out in the USA, she was commanded to join other ships at Newcastle.
As she headed for the Tyne from Scotland, she hit a mine around two miles south east of the entrance to the river.
The crew were injured in the blast but all managed to escape the ship – although helmsman Yngvar Halvorsen died later that day from his injuries.
The captain and chief mate returned aboard when they realised the ship wasn’t sinking, but officials wouldn’t let them tow the ship into harbour as they feared she might block the important port.
Instead, the ship was towed towards shore and beached at South Shields, where much of her cargo – including 9,000 bags of mail – was salvaged.
Oslofjord finally broke in two and capsized in bad weather at the end of January 1941, and her remains are scattered along the coast. Although at one time the wreck was almost complete – divers recorded rows of toilets and washbasins as well as cooking utensils visible beneath the waves – most items have since been salvaged or buried under the sea bed.
The cup, made in an art nouveau style, is engraved with the flag of the Norwegian American Line.
“The cup probably dates from when the ship was a liner,” said Robert. “I am really pleased to have found it. It had been lying there for two years longer than I have been alive.”
The cup is not the first impressive find for divers on the Spellbinder II.
Two years ago Allan, of North Shields, came across the wreck of the long-lost paddle steamer and minesweeper HMS Snaefell off the Sunderland coast.
In 2009 the team also discovered the wreck of the SS Hogarth off the North East coast.