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Wheal Jane Laboratory

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Latest news – January 2016

Recent months have seen a number of interesting projects received by our laboratory, including two involving reclaiming, restoring and analysing metal ingots salvaged from shipwrecks.

The first required the cleaning and restoration of tin ingots and artefacts from a Cornish wreck, the SS Cheerful which sank in heavy fog 18 miles NNW of St Ives on July 20th 1885 following a collision with HMS Hecla. The wreck was first salvaged in May 1994 when it was thought to contain tin from four local smelting houses. Subsequent salvage attempts in 2013 indicated six smelting houses were represented in the cargo. However the latest restoration work carried out, involving extensive cleaning processes developed by Wheal Jane Laboratory indicates that as many as eight or even nine smelting houses may have had ingots within the cargo.

A number of the restored ingots and other items are now on display in the new Wheal Jane Group reception area officially opened by HRH the Duke of Kent in September 2015

The second batch of salvaged metal ingots came from the west coast of Africa. Samples from several wrecks dating back over a period of 200 to 300 years have been carefully examined to determine purity and potential end use as low alpha products suitable for the specialised electronics and space industries, where electronic failures or “soft errors” caused by alpha emissions from solder can be a serious problem.  Initial evaluation of the ingots involved taking thin sections for XRF and ICP-OES analysis to obtain an elemental profile of the metal.

15th January 2016

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