Uri Geller vindicated as historic sub is found

By Catherine Elsworth Sunday 10 November 199






Full-size replica of the Resurgam was built from surviving drawings. (William Garrett)

A MAN seeking a long-lost submarine learned the cost of ignoring the advice of Uri Geller, the psychic spoon-bender, when he spent more than £1 million looking in the wrong place.

Eight years ago Uri Geller pinpointed the exact location of a submarine sunk more than a century ago. But William Scanlan-Murphy, sceptical of Geller’s “special powers”, chose to ignore his advice and instead financed a fruitless search of an area 15 miles west of the actual location.

Eventually he gave up, believing the wreck had been destroyed. It was only when a fishing trawler snagged its nets on the Resurgam, the world’s first powered submarine, that the accuracy of Geller’s advice emerged.

Last week Mr Scanlan-Murphy finally met the psychic to reveal the truth about his predictions and produced the map Geller had marked with a fateful cross in 1988. It was at a charity function in Leeds that Mr Scanlan-Murphy, a radio producer, first encountered Geller and jokingly enlisted his help in the hunt for the wreck.

Geller looked at a sea chart covering 800 square miles around Colwyn and Liverpool bays and indicated a spot four miles off Rhyl, North Wales. “I just felt it very, very strongly and zoomed in on an area,” Geller recalled. “I even put my initials by the spot with an exclamation mark – U.G! But when Bill went back to his colleagues, they scoffed at my location, so far was it from the point where they thought the sub was.”

‘For the first time in my life I can finally come out and say I was right’

Mr Scanlan-Murphy became involved in the search for the 1870s-built Resurgam – Latin for I will rise again


The Reverend George Garrett (center with daughter), and his crew aboard the Resurgam after its construction at Birkenhead factory. (William Scanlan Murphy, Father of the Submarine, London:

After writing a book about the man who designed and built it, the Victorian clergyman George Garratt. He teamed up with Garratt’s great-grandson Bill and, using sonar readings and the predictions of an oceanographer, targeted an area in Colwyn Bay where the steam-powered submarine, whose interior was candle-lit, was thought to have sunk in 1879 en route from Rhyl to Portsmouth.

Mr Scanlan-Murphy, 42, said: “I’m sceptical about people like Uri Geller and I admit I asked him out of sheer devilment. After he pointed to the map, I ignored what he said because it was about 15 miles west from the spot where we were looking and where, according to Garratt’s log, the sub went down in rough seas. I just shoved it in my mother’s attic. Eventually we assumed the sub had been destroyed.”

When a fishing boat caught its nets as it trawled off Liverpool Bay, a diver discovered the submarine 71ft down on the seabed. “We had a satellite reading made of the submarine and it was just four or five metres away from Geller’s mark,” Mr Scanlan-Murphy said. “I don’t know how he did it or if it was just pure chance, but he was spot on. It is so embarrassing.”

Geller said: “When Bill said where it had been found, I was elated. So much of my work is for governments and is top secret and bound by red tape. But for the first time in my life I can finally come out and say I was right.”

An attempt to raise the submarine will be made next spring. The revelation, however, leaves Mr Scanlan-Murphy with one extra task. “My book, Father of the Submarine, ended with the rather mendacious claim that we were close to finding the submarine, 15 miles from where it actually was,” he said. “But that in fact turned out to be a buoy. Now I’ll have to rewrite the ending.”


The Resurgam, the world’s first practical powered submarine, was discovered off Rhyl, Northern Wales, in 1995. Now the historically important craft is endangered by commercial fishing operations soon to take place in this area.

In order to save this important wreck, the Archaeological Diving Unit of the University of St. Andrews developed Project SubMap. This project offered sport divers and researchers a unique opportunity to participate in a world class underwater archaeological project during June of this year. Links from the content column at left will provide you with a history of the Resurgam, its discovery, and the plan to recover it. The site also presents interviews with divers and investigators, and results of the survey project as they are made available.


The British government’s Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU), headquartered at St. Andrews University, Scotland, has completed a survey of the Resurgam, the first successful engine-powered submarine, lost while under tow in a storm off Wales in 1880. The 50-foot submarine, invented by Manchester curate George W. Garrett, sank in less than 50 feet of water. “The wreck of this unique submarine lay undisturbed and intact until only a few years ago, when it appears to have been struck by a large ship,” says Martin Dean, director of the ADU. “The impact wrenched the vessel from the spot where it sank, scattering small pieces of the hull over a wide area and damaging the bow. Despite the damage, the wreckage appears to be basically intact and in good enough condition to withstand recovery, should this become a possibility.”

Fishermen had known of a small obstruction in the area, but about six years ago they found it to be much larger and some 36 feet from its original location. “An impact that moved between 20 and 30 tons of submarine concreted within the seabed must have been impressive,” says Dean. “It may have been caused by a ship’s anchor dragging through the site, or perhaps was the result of the impact of a powerful beam trawler.”

A plan of the external features of the sub has been produced using data collected with side- and sector-scan sonar and a cesium magnetometer, as well as an acoustic tracking and surveying system used both as a diver-held unit and carried on a robot that crawled along the ocean bottom. According to Dean, preliminary assessment of the evidence indicates that the Resurgam was originally buried bow-down in the seabed, although not totally covered. Massive barrel-stave-shaped timbers that had been fastened to the wrought-iron hull for insulation, protection, and bouyancy still lie embedded in the vessel’s original impact depression. There is also a considerable dent in the conning tower. Plans now call for on-site protection of the historic submarine, which will be marked as a navigation hazard.–MARK M. NEWELL, Georgia Archaeological Institute.


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